The Birrarung Council was appointed by the Government in August 2018 as prescribed by the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017 (the Act) to be the independent voice of the Yarra River as a living entity and to provide independent advice to the Government on the implementation of the Act.

Traditional Owners have a permanent voice through the Act’s requirement that at least two members of the Birrarung Council must be nominated from the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

Council members

The appointed members bring to the Council a broad range of knowledge, industry experience, passion and advocacy for the protection and improvement of the Yarra River and surrounding area. They include the Traditional Owners, environmental and agricultural industry groups, Yarra River land local community groups and other members selected for their specific skills. The current members are:

Members of the Birrarung Council posing for a photograph

  • Chris Chesterfield (Chair)
  • Margaret Gardiner (Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elder)
  • Ronald Jones (Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elder)
  • Alexandra Lee
  • Andrew Kelly
  • Bronwyn South
  • Erin O’Donnell
  • Kirsten Bauer
  • Prue Digby
  • Warwick Leeson OAM

Above: Birrarung Council members who from left to right are: Allan Wandin (Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elder), Prue Digby, Andrew Kelly, Bronwyn South, Warwick Leeson, Kirsten Bauer, Margaret Gardiner (Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elder), Chris Chesterfield (Chair), Alexandra Lee, Erin O’Donnell and Ron Jones (Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elder).

The Secretariat for the Birrarung Council is provided by the Department for Environment, Land, Water and Planning. To contact the Birrarung Council, please email:

Mission of the Birrarung Council

The Birrarung Council will champion the interests of the Yarra River as one living and integrated natural entity, as reflected in the 50-year Community Vision and the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people’s place based water policy response to the Act; (Nhanbu narrun ba ngargunin twarn Birrarung).

In order to achieve its mission, the Birrarung Council will be working with Elders and communities to protect the River and its heritage. Other important stakeholders are Government departments and public entities and statutory authorities, as well as Local Government Authorities through which the Yarra flows in its course from source to sea.

First year of the Council

In its first year, the Council is establishing relationships with the organisations that have planning and management responsibilities for Yarra River land.

The Council also has a legislated role to advocate for the protection and preservation of the Yarra River. Accordingly, the Council has made two public submissions to date, on the North East Link Project Environment Effects Statement and the Draft Yarra River - Bulleen Precinct Land Use Framework Plan.

The Council has developed its Enquiry process, to be used for public entities in reporting on how they have aligned their activities with the Act and how they are giving effect to the Community Vision and Traditional Owner aspirations.

The council has prepared a report detailing the activities for the first year of operation. You can read the report here (PDF, 5.2 MB).

Looking forward

In the coming year, the Council will continue to provide advice to the Minister for Water on protection and improvement of the Yarra.

When a Yarra Strategic Plan comes into operation, the Birrarung Council will report annually on the implementation of the plan by these organisations. This report will be tabled by the Minister for Water in the Parliament of Victoria.

In addition to these statutory responsibilities, it will provide advice on projects or policies that have a bearing on the river, such as the draft Yarra River - Bulleen Precinct Land Use Framework Plan.

Page last updated: 20/11/20