Markets & Justice

Markets & Justice
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White Australia Has A Black History

White Australia Has A Black History

Friday, 11 March 2016

Learn about your locality: walk the Yarrowee with Advocacy to-morrow ... details below

Advocacy member, Julie Werner has being doing some backgrounding for to-morrow's walk along the Yarrow Trail to the Nerrina Wetlands.  For details of where and when to meet, please go here.


The painting is by Eugene von Guerard.
In the background is Mount Warrenheip.
In the foreground, are headwaters of the Yarrowee River. 

Anyone who grew up near water whether it was a creek, a river, a dam or a lake has spent time trying to catch insects, small fish or tadpoles.  Over time our society has not respected our precious water courses and we seem to have spent time doing everything we can to tame them.  This is true for the Yarrowee River who has its head waters close to Ballarat East.  This important water way is the one that parts of our city are built on, literally.

The Growling Grass Frog is a native of the Nerrina Wetlands.

To find out more please go here and here.

Brian Simpson at the Yarrowee Flora Reserve
A lot of work has been done to clean up our River and a plan was developed a number of years ago which allows us to enjoy the river now.  In the 30 years since Brian Simpson and a friend started clearing weeds along the river nearly 80 community groups, including 30 schools, have helped resuscitate the river.   

Mr Noyce, an environmentalist says in one article “For 150 years, the Yarrowee River had been treated as a stormwater drain but, when the Gnarr Creek flooded in the 1980s, a slow water management plan was introduced including a soft engineering approach where the use of the environment controlled storm water,''

He goes on to say. “Soft engineering takes the energy out of the water, which is captured and then run through growth pollutant plants before being held in a lagoon for three days and slowly released.  If the Yarrowee River master plan had not been implemented, future generations would be forced to undertake a reactive approach to management, rather than the present proactive program.  We are looking at the historic fabric of the river, the indigenous plant community and also the non-wanted species.''

Since the introduction of the plan, five major new parks have been created along the Yarrowee - Gong Gong Reservoir Park, Nerrina Park and Wetlands, the Yarrowee Flora Reserve, Yarrowee-Redan Reserve and the Yuille Station Park and Wetlands.

 Yuille Station Park and Wetlands
off Vickers Road, Sebastopol

Since 1999, the City of Ballarat has constructed seven wetlands. These projects provide better regulation of run-off and allow retention to reduce flooding. The greatest threat to lakes, rivers and streams is pollutants, litter, nutrients and sediments.

Wetlands with appropriate litter traps and riparian plant communities can provide a natural and sustainable method of regulating such inflows and protecting water quality. The establishment of shallow protected waters separate from the lakes and rivers provides an appropriate habitat for a desirable range of native birds and flora.

The Linear Network of Community Spaces Group’s vision is one of the green threads radiating out from Ballarat's urban environment and connecting to natural areas and features.  They offer the following historical perspective of Ballarat’s River.

The word Yarrowee was thought to be from the early settlers' use of the Scottish ``Yarrow'', a diminutive to describe smaller streams.

One of the earliest references to the Yarrowee was when author Withers, in his History of Ballarat states, with respect to pre-gold Ballarat: ``Mr Henry Anderson, who was the earliest pioneer in what  is now known as Winter's Flat, plated his homestead near the delta formed by the confluence of the  Woolshed Creek and the Yarrowee.''

In the driest of the early summers, squatters used to find permanent waterholes at the junction of the Gong Gong and Yarrowee, or Blakeney's Creek as it was then known, after an early settler.

The Yarrowee was described in 1851 as being a ``clear running creek three to four yards wide, with wide grassy alluvial flats. It has also been described as the ``rivulet Yarrowee'' and ``the little river that ran through the Ballarat diggings''.

According to Ballarat historian Peter Butters, geologically speaking, the Yarrowee has also been referred to as a marginal stream.

The discovery of gold altered the tranquility of the Yarrowee and introduced pollution. In researching the Yarrowee, Mr Butters found information about the river during the 1850s gold rush stating ``the green banks of the Yarrowee were lined with tubs and cradles, its clear waters were changed to liquid yellow as the yellowest Tiber flood, and its banks grew to be long shoals of tailing.''

Professor Weston Bate's book Lucky City says that, in 1883, ``the infamous drain that ran down Sturt
Street from the hospital to the Yarrowee, often containing infected sewage and often overflowing into cellars, was abolished. ``But that was only a minor reduction in the pollution of that once beautiful stream. A soapworks and a fellmongery upstream, the woollen mill downstream, the Chinese village, the gaol, the gasworks and dozens of factories gave it their effluent.''

That once-beautiful stream was becoming a sewer.

Older residents of Ballarat can still recall the extent of pollution in the Yarrowee in the early 1930s.
Blood from the meatworks in Skipton St flowed under the street and then entered the water as an open drain and mixed with the blue-coloured run-off from the woollen mill, the two pollutants merging and turning the Yarrowee's water purple.

In more recent years, Mr Butter writes, the Yarrowee had become a dumping ground for all kinds of refuse, including shopping trollies and assorted rubbish.  Thanks to the works being undertaken by the Linear Network of Communal Spaces (LINCS), the future of the Yarrowee looks much brighter.

 Nerrina Wetlands - Brown Hill

The Brown Hill and Ballarat East end of the river was used as a rubbish dump by some people but it was not nearly as bad as the end down near Sebastopol.  The VictorianWaterway Management Strategy was developed some time ago and the CorangamiteCatchment Management Authority has been managing an initiative to further improve the river.  There have been artificial ponds established in the Brown Hill wetland to assist with flood mitigation.  The removal of invasive weeds, particularly willows, blackberries, hawthorn and gorse, remains an ongoing problem. 

The wide variety of birdlife in the Nerrina Wetland remains a big drawcard for birdwatchers to visit our city

Leith Street, Redan, Ballarat - 2011