Guidebook Melbourne is a river city

Sense of place

Melbourne is a river city

“It could easily have been a harbour city,” says John Carroll in The Sydney Morning Herald, “with its centre fronting onto the vast Port Phillip Bay.” But its location along the banks of the Yarra -- “a river of modest width allows intimacies of proximity and fluidity, facilitated by multiple bridge connections.” The Melbourne river edge brings the city to life, writes Carroll: “Federation Square, opened in 2002, has developed into the hub that the city never had … linked to it, coherent sports and arts domains have developed, blending with river and gardens, through a mixture of brilliant urban landscape design and luck.”

The river’s urbanisation started with European arrival in 1835, explains Cool Australia. “The Yarra River that the first Europeans encountered was vastly different to the river that we see today … its shores were lined with gums, wetlands and grasslands, with creeks and falls joining the river, and falls frequently breaking its flow.” First came land clearing and cattle grazing, which forced the local indigenous Wurundjeri into new territories away from the river. The Wurundjeri called the river Birrarung and when the Europeans arrived it was given the name Yarra Yarra “in the mistaken belief that this was the Aboriginal name for the river.” Now it’s acknowledged that Yarra means “waterfall” or “flow”.

Sense of place
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