Cultural Heritage

The Conservation Area has a rich living history that is a vital legacy for Aboriginal people, the local community and for all Australians. The landscape contains evidence of thousands of years of continuous occupation and the Conservation Area endures as an important place for the Wurundjeri Traditional Owners. Post settlement heritage is also valued with the area providing timber, agricultural produce, drinking water, recreation, tourism, and gold mining since the mid 1800s.

Aboriginal Heritage

As noted by VEAC ‘this region is part of the traditional lands of Aboriginal people of the Wurundjeri tribe and includes a number of language groups or clans of the Woi wurrung. There are many places and sites across the area of cultural heritage significance to Aboriginal people. The Yarra River and other waterways, swamps and lakes are of particular importance to Aboriginal people and contain archaeological sites but the entire region was part of a broader cultural landscape. Documented pre-contact archaeological sites occur throughout the Yarra Valley including scarred trees and artefact scatters. Some particularly good examples of scarred trees are located in Coranderrk Nature Conservation Reserve. Several well-known Aboriginal community leaders are associated with the historic Coranderrk Aboriginal Mission Station established near Healesville, part of which is included in the Conservation Area.’ (VEAC, 2012, p. 24).

The Wurundjeri Land Council was established in 1985 by descendants of the Wurundjeri people. The Council is a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) for areas around Melbourne. Under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, a RAP is a statutory authority and has responsibilities for the protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Council provides a range of advisory services, and has also established a  Natural Resource Management (NRM) team, referred to as the Narrap Team, which manage Wurundjeri properties and other significant places.

See the Resources section below for more information.

European Heritage

As noted by VEAC, the Dandenong Ranges, and both the Yarra Ranges and Yarra Valley have provided timber, agricultural produce, drinking water, recreation and tourism since the mid-1800s. In the earliest years of European settlement, the region was part of an expanding pastoral industry. Historical records indicate that cattle grazing, and plantings of fruit and vegetables was occurring in this area as early as 1838, and the first vineyard was also planted at Yering homestead near Yarra Glen (VEAC, 2012, p. 25).

Evidence can still be seen today of a range of tourism and use related activities in the area. As an example, a tourist track between Sassafras and Emerald was constructed in the very early 1900s, it was very and is still in use today. Gold mining was prevalent along the creeks in the 1860’s and again in the early 1900’s. Various maps show the indicative location of digging areas and mineshafts still remain today. Sawmills were scattered through the area both on private land and on-stream reserves.

Evidence of historic water distribution remain. As an example, the water pipeline from Beagleys Bridge to Monbulk Jams was constructed to divert water from the Sassafras Creek to supply the Jam factory which was a major feature in the local economy. The Avard water turbine on frontage of Menzies Creek is of local interest as it provided electricity prior to SEC supply becoming available and utilised part of the 1920’s goldmining water race to divert creek to turbine.

Establishment of conservation and passive recreation areas in this region in the late 1880s illustrates a changing community emphasis towards the protection of public land for non-economic purposes: mainly recreation in a natural environment. For example, Ferntree Gully forest— reserved as a place of public recreation—was popular for picnicking, nature study and walking from the 1880s. In 1927 Ferntree Gully forest was gazetted as a national park and was later merged with other areas to form Dandenong Ranges National Park in 1987.

The Yarra Ranges region has over fifteen history and heritage groups and community museums that specialise in researching local history. Many of them have collections of material from the region and are run by committed volunteers who have a deep local knowledge. For more information see the Yarra Ranges Council Research Local History webpage.

See the Resources section below for more information.

Cultural Heritage


Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Retrieved from$FILE/06-016a.pdf.

Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (Austl). Retrieved from$FILE/10-062a.pdf.

Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017 (Vic) (Austl).  Retrieved from$FILE/17-049aa%20authorised.pdf.


Aboriginal Victoria. (2018). Aboriginal Cultural Heritage of Victoria [webpage]. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Retrieved from

Aboriginal Victoria. (2018). Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018 [webpage]. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria.

Aboriginal Victoria. (2018). Aboriginal Places, Objects and Land Management [webpage]. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria.

Aboriginal Victoria. (2018). Heritage tools: Cultural Heritage Management Plan Tool [webpage].   Retrieved from

Aboriginal Victoria. (2018). Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Maps [webpage]. Retrieved from

Australian Government. (2017). Engaging Indigenous Peoples in Water Planning and Management. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from

Culture Victoria. (2016). Aboriginal Culture [website].  Retrieved from

Culture Victoria. (2016). William Barak : King of the Yarra. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Retrieved from

Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP). Munganin – Gadhaba  ‘Achieve Together’: DELWP Aboriginal Inclusion Plan 2016-2020. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Retrieved from

Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP). (2016). Protecting the Yarra River (Birrrarung)  - Discussion Paper. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Retrieved from

Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP). (2016). Protecting the Yarra River (Birrrarung) - Ministerial Advisory Committee Final Report. Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Retrieved from

du Cros, H. (1988). An Archaeological Survey of the Upper Yarra and Dandenong Ranges Area, Victoria. Lilydale, Victoria: Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Authority.

Goulding, M. (1988). Aboriginal Occupation of the Melbourne Area, District 2. Report to the Land Conservation Council. Melbourne: Land Conservation Council.

Koorie Heritage Trust Inc., Australian Broadcasting Corporation New Media and Digital Services, & Film Victoria. (2004). Mission Voices: Corandeerk [website].  Retrieved from

Morrison, T. (2017). Beyond Coranderrk: Station era Aboriginal political resistance in the Victorian archives. Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria, (15). Retrieved from

The Minutes of Evidence Project. (2013). The Coranderrk Inquiry: A window onto the history of colonial dispossession in settler states. [website].  Retrieved from

Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC). (2012, December). Yellingbo Investigation Draft Proposals Paper: For public comment. East Melbourne: VEAC. Retrieved from

Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC). (2013). Yellingbo Investigation Final Report. East Melbourne: VEAC. Retrieved from

Wurundjeri Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Aboriginal Corporation [website].