The Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017 enables, for the first time in Australia's history, a river to be legally understood as a living system.

The Birrarung has now become one of a small number of rivers around the world that are recognised in law as living entities.

This legislation is also ground-breaking because the Act:

  • recognises the intrinsic connection of the Traditional Owners to the Yarra River and their role as custodians of the Birrarung land and water. It gives them a permanent voice in the planning for and management of the river
  • provides for coordinated, long-term planning to guarantee the health of the river, in the frame of the Yarra Strategic Plan
  • provides for the development of a 50-year community vision to guide policy, with the Yarra Strategic Plan required to give effect to this vision
  • requires, as a principle, an environmental net gain for any project on Yarra River Land
  • requires, as a principle, that community consultation and participation plays an essential and influential role in planning for the protection, improvement and promotion of Yarra River land
  • provides for the declaration of the Greater Yarra Urban Parklands
  • establishes a council (the Birrarung Council) to advise the Minister and to advocate for the river.

The legislation provides the basis for a new, collaborative governance structure for the river. State and local government stakeholders will work with Traditional Owners as custodians of the Birrarung to respect and protect the river and ensure its long-term health and wellbeing.

Page last updated: 30/11/21