Woman running alongside lakeIn late August 2018 the Victorian Government launched Waterways of the West (WoW) - a new community-led approach to ensure iconic waterways in Melbourne’s West are protected for generations to come.

Waterways are essential to community health, to the liveability of local neighbourhoods and to the broader environment. Rivers, streams and creeks have special significance for Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians, encompassing cultural, spiritual, social, economic and environmental values.

A Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) has been appointed to work with the community, Traditional Owners and industry to present a range of recommendations for the WoW to the Government. This work will build on the strong community advocacy work already occurring across the region, along with other opportunities identified during the MAC's deliberations.

The WoW MAC is the next step in delivering on the Yarra River Action Plan, which recognises the need to reconsider the planning and policy context for other urban waterways including the Maribyrnong and Werribee Rivers.

Appointment of the MAC and scope  

The members of the Waterways of the West Ministerial Advisory Committee represent a diversity of expertise and a depth of experience. These members were selected for their high-level expertise in water management, local government, urban design, and Aboriginal values of water, and their ability to think strategically and engage with communities.

Chris Chesterfield, Chair, is a national leader in waterway and urban water management. He is a Commissioner for the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, and Director Strategic Engagement at the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cites. Chris chaired the advisory committee that that led to the establishment of landmark reforms to protect the Yarra River (Birrarung).

Melinda Kennedy is a Wadawurrung woman with extensive knowledge of traditional land and water practices and contemporary natural resource management. She engages with new and older residents in the urban growth communities on Wathaurung Country to provide them with cultural awareness that connects them to their place.

Aunty Diane Kerr, Aunty Alice Kolasa and Uncle Dave Wandin have a shared membership on the Committee, consistent with the three-family self-determined governance model of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Aboriginal Corporation.

A respected Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Di has made a life-long contribution to her community in the areas of health, welfare, education and land rights. Aunty Di is a Member (and former Director) of the Dandenong and District Aboriginal Co-Operative (DDACL) and Former Director of Narragol Housing (Koorie Housing Loans). In 2013, Aunty Di was appointed a director of Native Title Services Victoria (now First Nations Legal & Research Services) and 6 months later became the Chairperson and as of 2019, still holds this position. In 2016 she was appointed by Minister Hutchins to the Victorian Treaty Interim Working Group as a respected community Elder (not in her capacity as a Wurundjeri Elder), however has since stepped down from this position. Aunty Di was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2017 (by the Victorian State Government). Aunty Di was awarded with the Order of Australia Medal during the 2019 Australia Day honours for her contributions to the Victorian Aboriginal Community.

Aunty Diane Kerr, Aunty Alice Kolasa and Uncle Dave Wandin have a shared membership on the Committee, consistent with the three-family self-determined governance model of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Aboriginal Corporation.

Aunty Alice was one of three Wurundjeri Elders to provide a cultural framework for the Yarra Ministerial Advisory Committee. On the 22nd June 2017, Aunty Alice formally addressed the Victorian Parliament while tabling the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron) Act 2017. Aunty Alice is passionate about promoting Wurundjeri culture and is frequently involved in organising Wurundjeri events, Wurundjeri Week, Moomba and other major cultural events, including the 2018 Victorian NAIDOC events. Most recently, Aunty Alice performed the Welcome to Country for the 2018 Brownlow Medal.

Shelley Penn is an architect and urbanist, currently the University Architect at Monash University and is an ongoing member of the Victorian, ACT and NSW State Design Review Panels. She was formerly the Associate Victorian Government Architect.

Aunty Diane Kerr, Aunty Alice Kolasa and Uncle Dave Wandin have a shared membership on the Committee, consistent with the three-family self-determined governance model of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Aboriginal Corporation.

Uncle Dave Wandin is Wurundjeri Council’s Manager of Cultural Practices. Prior to this role, Uncle Dave was instrumental in the establishment of the Council’s Narrap Team, a team of cultural land managers who provide commercial services for different authorities and businesses with land and water management responsibilities. Uncle Dave is a recognised leader in both the promotion and execution of cultural burns in Victoria. Currently Uncle Dave and Wurundjeri Council’s Water Unit are working on the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan, ensuring optimal outcomes for Wurundjeri culture and people alongside representatives from Responsible Public Entities identified in the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron) Act 2017. Uncle Dave is also taking a key role in the rejuvenation of the Galeena Beek properties.

Lydia Wilson is a senior executive with 25 years local government experience. She is Chair of the Maribyrnong Integrated Water Forum and has been CEO of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council, the Yarra City Council, and the Manningham Council.

Two people riding bikes near a river on bike path
The scope of the Committee will consider the network of waterways within the Maribyrnong and Werribee Catchments, as defined by the Melbourne Water Healthy Waterways Strategy. This includes the Werribee River, the Maribyrnong River and the Moonee Ponds Creek and their tributaries, and other rivers, creeks and wetlands such as Stony Creek, Kororoit Creek and Lollypop Creek.

The Committee will work in partnership with Traditional Owners and communities, developers, industry and local governments. It will oversee the development of a Community Vision, and it will define the key issues impacting on the community values of the waterways of the west and their parklands. The Committee will report directly to both the Minister for Water and the Minister for Planning.

The Committee will advise not only on how to better protect the waterways and their parklands, but to also promote their cultural significance, values, and recreational benefits. This will include advice on a range of policy and planning mechanisms and a review of institutional, legislative and regulatory arrangements to enhance the waterways for community health and liveability of neighbourhoods in the west. To support WoW’s community-led approach, the Committee will also investigate additional arrangements to ensure that Traditional Owners and the community participate in waterways management decisions in the future.

The Waterways of the West initiative builds on recent community collaborations to develop the Healthy Waterways Strategy, and look at broader issues such as landscape amenity, and land use planning and development controls and standards, that are suited to the unique features of Melbourne’s west.

The Committee has already participated in cultural induction training and Walks on Country with the Wurundjeri and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners. It has received briefings from agency and community representatives on a range of topics such as the community aspirations for greater protections for the waterways, the Moonee Ponds Creek collaboration, the history and context of planning controls in the west, and the opportunities and challenges to turn stormwater and wastewater into a safe and suitable resource for community benefit.

What's next for WOW?

A Community Assembly, comprising of community members who represent the demographics of western Melbourne, is the next step in establishing a community-led 50-year vision for future management of Melbourne’s western creeks and rivers. This Vision will inform the development of the Committee’s Discussion Paper that will go out for public consultation in late July. The Committee will call for submissions prior to holding participatory workshops later in the year.

Contact us to find out more

To receive updates on the Waterways of the West Ministerial Advisory Committee, please register your interest.

Page last updated: 15/08/19