Courtesy of the Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek
Aboriginal occupation of Kororoit Creek and the surrounding area is evident in the form of many scattered artefacts along the Creek. Scar trees, where canoes were carved from the bark of the red gums, are dotted along the Creek. Fish traps and bird traps are also evident to the trained observer.
The Victorian Archaeological Survey has identified nearly twenty sites of archaeological interest along the Kororoit Creek. These sites are protected by law. In Burnside a site of Aboriginal significance is currently being developed and a committee of management is ensuring that it is restored and maintained for the benefit of all.
The year 1803 saw one of the first encounters of the Kororoit Creek by European explorers. The Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, Philip King, commissioned a survey party aboard the schooner CUMBERLAND to examine Port Phillip Bay by walking the entire length of the shoreline. James Flemming, an experienced agriculturalist, recorded brief impressions of an excursion from Point Gellibrand to Point Cook in February 1803. Mention was made in his journals of crossing two ‘runs’ or creeks, one of which “still tasted of the salt tides” where they forded it. This was Kororoit Creek.
In August 1835 a surveyor, John Helder Wedge, arrived in the colony from Van Diemen’s Land with a view to surveying the 600,000 acres which John Batman had acquired from the Aboriginals in May of that year. In late August, during one of several surveying excursions around the area, Wedge, along with three aboriginal guides, skirted a She Oak forest which fringed the Bay and spent the night at a waterhole. The following day Wedge reported that the party crossed a salt water creek which fed into Port Phillip Bay via an expanse of lowlands. This creek was Kororoit Creek. It was on this expedition that Wedge came across John Pascoe Fawkner’s schooner ENTERPRIZE anchored in the Yarra River, the day after the first settlers landed their goods on the banks of the River.
The Kororoit Creek was referred to as “Tee Tree Creek” by the settlers who arrived after Wedge in 1835. This name reflects the kind of shrubbery (leptospermum obvatum – wooly tea tree) which lined its banks in those days.
The Creek was also often confused with the Maribyrnong River, being sometimes referred to as “Salt Water River”, the original name given to the Maribyrnong.
One possible derivation for the name “Kororoit” is thought to come from an Aboriginal word meaning “male kangaroo”. A second possibility is that it was derived from the Aboriginal name for the district encompassing the now City of Hobsons Bay, “Koort Boork“, meaning “She Oak”.
When the earliest graziers, commencing with John Batman and John Fawkner and their respective parties, took their flocks west, Kororoit Creek became an important source of fresh water on the treeless plains.
During the gold rushes in the 1850s, Kororoit Creek created a barrier to the thousands of gold miners heading to the diggings in and around Ballarat. These diggers crossed the Creek at fords which later became the location for bridges. One such bridge is the Brooklyn Bluestone Bridge, which was built over Kororoit Creek using bluestone quarried from the local area. This magnificent bridge, built during the 1860s, still stands today and presents an outstanding entrance to the City of Hobsons Bay.
In the 1850s, pastoralists settled the Altona area. In 1865, the area abounding the mouth of Kororoit Creek was reserved for a future racecourse. This racecourse and large grandstand were subsequently built during the late 1880s. During the Second World War, the grandstand was the main canteen for the army camp which occupied the racecourse. Unfortunately, it was totally destroyed by fire in 1946.
In the 1890s, a young resident of the Altona North area, Ann Hall, spent happy times along the Kororoit Creek. She later wrote her memoirs, which provide valuable insights into the flora and fauna proliferating at that time.
Ann recalled many blissful afternoons spent on Kororoit Creek near Blackshaws Road with her sisters, and reminisced:
“…there was a lovely deep water hole and waterfalls from a small creek which emptied into it. The high banks were studded with large boulders with wide gaps cracked through them… (and) spiny cunningham skinks twelve to sixteen inches long would emerge from rock crevices and bask in the sun…”
Ann described many of the plants, animals and bird-life abounding near the Kororoit Creek, including the huge clumps of river tea tree which grew along the Creek and which gave off a lovely fragrance when covered in small white flowers.
Kororoit Creek is of scientific interest as a classic example of creek formation over a basalt plain, with the geomorphology of the Creek varying along its length.
The underlying bedrock is three to four hundred million years old and consists of Silurian marine claystones, siltstones and sandstones. Superimposed on the bedrock are volcanic basalt lava flows which are hard, dense grey basalts of the late Oligocene age. Overlying the earlier lava flows are the more recent basaltic lava flows of the Pliocene and Pleistocene era, which form the dominant surface geology.
Mt Kororoit, Mt Cottrell, Spring Hill and Bald Hill are four of some twenty volcanic cones in the region which have been identified as the source of the lava flow creating the basalt plain. The volcanic activity occurred approximately one to five million years ago, resulting in the basalt plain which covers what is now the western part of Melbourne.
The fact that the basalt plain does not cover the eastern part of Melbourne accounts largely for the different vegetation on the two sides of the city.
The landform of Altona Coastal Park comprises grassy plains, gently sloping towards salt marsh, shallow inter-tidal flats and the rocky basalt platforms of the coast of Port Phillip Bay.
Above Altona Coastal Park, towards Kororoit Creek Road, the Creek valley is wider and has a shallow flood plain.
Upstream of Kororoit Creek Road the valley becomes more steeply incised, but it does not cut below the base of the newer volcanics.
Above the Western Highway at Albion, the Kororoit Creek valley is again shallow. The best remnants of the original lava topography in the region are to be found here.
The predominant soils are shallow, dark, heavy clays with a thin topsoil. The soil becomes waterlogged then dries quickly, which can cause it to crack. Basalt outcrops and floaters occur extensively.
Altona Coastal Park has predominantly saltmarsh vegetation including Bearded Glasswort, Shrubby Glasswort and White Mangrove. The primary vegetation type upstream of Kororoit Creek Road, for the length of Kororoit Creek, is a combination of Western Plains grassland, escarpment vegetation and riparian scrub along the watercourses.
Western Plains grasslands were dominated in the past by Kangaroo Grass. The escarpment vegetation included Sweet Bursaria, Tree Violet and Blackwoods. The Riparian woodlands were dominated by red gum, with scattered shrubs and a range of grassy wetland plants on the alluvial flats.
Remnants of these vegetation communities exist today along Kororoit Creek and have been highlighted for protection.
• Altona – A Long View, Susan Priestly (1988)
• Sites of Botanical Significance, McDougall (1987)
• Kororoit Creek, Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West (1986)
• Schooner Enterprize – The History of Melbourne’s Founding Ship, G & O Mitchelmore (2001)
• Plants of Melbourne’s Western Plains, Society for Growing Australian Plants; Keilor Plains Group (1995)
• And with thanks for the contributions made by the Friends of Kororoit Creek.