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:

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

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

Vision of the Birrarung Council

For the Yarra River/Birrarung and its lands to be forever protected as a living entity and kept alive and healthy for the benefit of future generations.

Our mission

As a bi-cultural, independent and authentic voice of the Yarra River, the Birrarung Council champions the interests of the Yarra as one living and integrated natural entity, guided by the voice and knowledge of Traditional Owners as the custodians of the River and its lands.

Our approach

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.

The second year of the Council

In our First Year Report for 2019, the Council reflected on the work it had done to establish itself: it had begun its program of advice and advocacy, and initiated important stakeholder relationships across government and the community.

In 2020 the Council, like everyone else, faced unanticipated challenges from the Covid pandemic.

Within this challenging context, the council has continued to operate, providing constructive advice to Ministers., including to the Water Minister in relation to the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan.The slowing of progress in finalising the Yarra Strategic plan allowed us to put our energies into a range of projects.

In addition to its Ministerial advice function, in 2020 the Council was also able to:

  • commission important work on the concept of net gain, a key concept in the Yarra river protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) act.
  • develop the concept of ‘the Great Birrarung Parkland’. We will continue to champion the extension and greater recognition of this unique asset, which was formally established under the river protection legislation as the Greater Yarra Urban Parklands
  • initiate an exciting project which formed part of design Week 2021, to re-imagine the north bank of the river in Burnley drawing on the voices of Traditional Owners
  • prepare submissions, as the voice of the River, to a range of enquiries and planning panel processes

Annual reports

The council prepares a report each year to report on its operations.

First annual report (PDF, 5.2 MB)

Second annual report (PDF, 2.8 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 and advocacy on projects or policies that have a bearing on the River.

Page last updated: 08/09/21