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.

Over an 18-month period, a Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) was appointed to work with the community, Traditional Owners and industry to present a range of recommendations for the WoW to the Government. This work built on the strong community advocacy work that was already occurring across the region, along with other opportunities identified during the MAC's deliberations.

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 chairs the Ministerial Advisory Committee and is a nationally recognised leader in waterway and urban water management. He is Chairperson of the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, and a leading strategic thinker and research leader at the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities. Chris chaired the advisory committee Ministerial Advisory Committee members that led to the establishment of landmark reforms to protect the Yarra River (Birrarung) and now also chairs the Birrarung Council of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elders and community, which acts as the ‘voice of the river’.

Melinda Kennedy is a Wadawurrung woman with extensive knowledge and experience in the field of traditional and contemporary land and water management. Melinda is a member of the Aboriginal Water Unit within the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). She is currently studying a Higher Degree by Research and practising in Architecture and Built Environment with Deakin University. Melinda is also on the Barwon Water Environmental Advisory Committee.

Aunty Diane Kerr OAM is a respected Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elder. Aunty Di has made a life-long contribution to her community in the areas of health, welfare, education and land rights. She is a member (and former Director) of the Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-Operative 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 and Research Services) and six months later became the Chairperson. In 2016, she was appointed by the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins to the Aboriginal Treaty Interim Working Group as a respected community Elder (not in her capacity as a Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elder) and has since stepped down. Aunty Di was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2017 by the Victorian Government. Aunty Di was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the 2019 Australia Day honours for her contribution to the Victorian Aboriginal Community.

Aunty Alice Kolasa was one of three Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Elders to provide a cultural framework for the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee. On 22 June 2017, Aunty Alice addressed the Victorian Parliament while tabling the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron) Bill 2017. In addition to being a passionate advocate for Country, Aunty Alice is also active in promoting Wurundjeri Woi wurrung culture to the broader community. Aunty Alice is actively involved in organising Wurundjeri Woi wurrung events such as Wurundjeri Week and Moomba. Aunty Alice is also a current member of the Victorian NAIDOC Committee (2018 – current).

Shelley Penn is an independent architect and urbanist. She is currently the University Architect at Monash University and is an ongoing member of the Victorian, ACT, NSW and WA State design review panels. Shelley was formerly Chair of the National Capital Authority, Deputy Chair of the Heritage Council of Victoria and the Associate Victorian Government Architect.

Uncle David Wandin (MAC member April 2019 – current) was instrumental in establishing the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation’s Narrap Team, a team of cultural land managers who provide commercial services for authorities and businesses with land and water management responsibilities. Uncle Dave is a recognised leader in promoting and executing cultural burns in Victoria. Currently, Uncle Dave and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Corporation’s Water Unit are working on the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan, ensuring optimal outcomes for Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung culture and people alongside representatives of 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 in Healesville.

Lydia Wilson is a senior executive with 25 years local government experience, including over 12 years as CEO of Macedon Ranges Shire Council, the Yarra City Council and the Manningham Council. In addition, she has extensive Board Directorship experience including having been Chair and Deputy Chair of Sustainability Victoria. Lydia is currently Chair of the Maribyrnong (Mirrangbamurn) Integrated Water Forum and a Director on the Board of Procurement Australasia.

Aunty Doreen Garvey-Wandin is a Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elder and Engagement Officer at the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (MAC member October 2018 – April 2019).

Two people riding bikes near a river on bike path

The scope of the MAC considered the network of waterways within the Maribyrnong and Werribee Catchments, as defined by the Melbourne Water Healthy Waterways Strategy.

The MAC worked in partnership with Traditional Owners and communities, developers, industry and local governments. It oversaw the development of a Community Vision, and it defined the key issues impacting on the community values of the waterways of the west and their parklands. The MAC reported directly to both the Minister for Water and the Minister for Planning.

The MAC’s terms of reference required it to advise on how to better protect the waterways and their parklands and to promote their cultural significance, values, and recreational benefits. This included 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 MAC also investigated additional arrangements to ensure that Traditional Owners and the community have greater participation in waterway management decisions in the future.

The MAC participated in cultural induction training and Walks on Country with the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung 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.

The MAC submitted its recommendations to government in early 2020. These recommendations are informing the development of the WoW Action Plan and will be released at the same time as the WoW Action Plan.

We thank the MAC for their hard work, passion and commitment to protecting, enhancing and improving the Waterways of the West and their lands.


The WoW program established partnership arrangements with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, who had Registered Aboriginal Party status over areas within scope, during the MAC process. This included resourcing to allow for appropriate and meaningful engagement in the WoW program, and Traditional Owner-led projects that informed the Action Plan.

It had also engaged with Bunurong Land Council and Boonwurrung Land and Sea Aboriginal Corporation, which had declared an interest in the scoped areas where the Registered Aboriginal Party was previously undecided.

The WoW MAC’s first phase of public consultation was initiated through the WoW Engage Victoria webpage in April 2019, which invited submissions on the issues, pressures and opportunities for their valued waterways. There were 172 responses to the web page’s survey questions, and 346 markers were put on the page’s interactive map. Most respondents were from the region, but there were also responses from visitors to the region and community and government organisations.

The second phase of broad public consultation sought comment on the MAC’s Discussion Paper. This Discussion Paper was guided by submissions to this Engage Victoria website in May 2019, and by discussions with community representatives and stakeholders across relevant local government, agencies and community organisations about key issues and opportunities for the waterways and their surrounding lands. All submissions were considered by the WoW MAC in the making of their final recommendations to government.

Read the MAC Discussion Paper.

The WoW MAC oversaw the development of a Community Vision. This Vision expresses the community’s aspirations about what they value and how they want to interact with the Waterways of the West over the next 50 years. In June 2019, the WoW Community Assembly, selected to be representative of the community of the west, was formed to begin developing the Vision.

The WoW region has a rich, diverse, multicultural population. The 2016 Census found that about half of the region’s community were born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas. Half the region’s community speak languages other than English at home.

The MAC commissioned focus groups to hear the voices of people of CALD backgrounds. These focus groups enabled representatives of the Vietnamese and new and emerging migrant communities to have their say about what they value and how they interact with the Waterways of the West and their lands, now and in the future, and how agencies can continue to involve CALD communities in waterway management.

The Community Vision has been translated into the ten languages spoken commonly in Melbourne’s West, and DELWP will continue to engage with the West’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities over coming months to share knowledge and values of these unique waterways.

Page last updated: 13/12/21