The story of the Banksia Billabong
The Banksia Billabong is a large billabong teeming with life
Koori are using it regularly as a good food source and for cultural reasons.
It is surrounded by open woodland with large River Red Gums and grassy expanses and some areas of undergrowth. Sheep have just appeared in the area - brought in by the white people who settled at the mouth of the Yarra only a few months earlier.
The flats are cleared of trees and crops are being sown, orchards and vineyards have been established, vegetables are grown and animals grazed.
Behind us the intense farming is still happening in paddocks with very few trees
The billabong is still there though, largely intact.
It is a bird haven and birdies travelled from all over Melbourne to check it out.
Latham’s Snipe travelled a bit further to check it out - from Japan.
The market gardens are gone as constant floods have made them unviable. Grazing of cattle persists.
Banksia billabong is being excavated for garden soil and then filled in with building rubble and rock from the Eastern Freeway.
However, the eastern section of the southern loop is saved from this fate.
Late 1970’s and early 1980’s
Riverland Conservation Society, Warringal Conservation Society, Yarra Valley Conservation League and others lead the efforts to return the area to a more natural setting. Many River Red Gum trees are planted around the billabong. They fight off a proposal to build a freeway over it.
The last 30 years
Since the 1980’s the area has been fairly neglected by Parks Victoria and has become overrun by weeds.
Reduced flooding of the river has resulted in the billabong being dry most of the time now which has accelerated the degrading of the site.
However, many old growth River Red Gums still live on – some predating 1835.
In the near future Melbourne Water is planning to re-water the billabong with storm water from the drain under Banksia Street. This should be the catalyst to regenerate the billabong