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Women's Walk to connect communities at Victoria's Merri Creek

The Merri Creek Women’s Walk has been established by the AWA Victorian Branch Committee as a celebration of the Merri Creek community’s connection to land and water. The event commemorates women’s stories, connects communities and inspires change for a healthier and safer creek.   

The Women’s Walk was created in response to the assault of a woman who was running along the creek trail in 2019, and aims to help in efforts to reclaim the waterway as a safe space. Further, the event aims to support and encourage efforts to improve the health of the waterway and riparian zone. 

AWA’s Victorian Branch has been working with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and the community to establish a virtual trail along Merri Creek, which features the stories of women who have helped shape the waterway.  

During National Water Week, the AWA hosted a virtual launch of the virtual trail map, featuring locations along Merri Creek and stories connected to special places, including the significance of the water way for the Wurundjeri, as well as the efforts of many local women to foster community and rehabilitate the environment. 

The in-person trail walk will be launched on Wednesday 23 March 2022 and will include a Welcome to Country by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Dave and a smoking ceremony. Walkers will then set out to explore the area of Joe's Garden and other parts of Merri Creek.

merri-creek-little-black-cormorant

Photo: Adi Tudor

An inner-city oasis

Joe’s Garden holds iconic status as the last surviving inner-city market garden. It is named after Coburg local Joe Garita — the previous owner of the two-acre urban farm — and has been farmed continuously for 150 years.

Joe’s Garden was acquired by the council and taken on by CERES in 2003, and is now managed by Emily Connors. It has been shaped into a thriving community space, inviting locals and visitors to enjoy the inner-city garden oasis. 

“It’s definitely a family here, from the people who support the farm, to the locals who visit — even the birds. It feels like we can be self-sufficient here, nourished in all ways. By food, by music, by community,” Connors said. 

“Merri Creek is fertile ground; it was for Joe, it is for me. Not just for food, but for ideas and for a better future. A place for vision and a place to be creative; it is a constant source of ideas.”

merri-creek-silvereye

Photo: Adi Tudor

A respite from lockdown

The launch of the in-person walk will also celebrate how integral Merri Creek has been to Melburnians during COVID-19 lockdowns, offering a green space to spend time in over the past two years. 

Merri Creek Management Committee Manager Luisa Macmillan said: “People are deeply, deeply appreciative of this kind of space as a respite from the demands, worries and noise from the rest of their life. [It’s] a space for walking, for contemplation, for kids to play, for just appreciating the bird life and nature”. 

Macmillan has been integral to rehabilitation efforts along the creek, who was inspired to help nurture the waterway into the "ribbon of magic" that flows unimpeded from its origin at Heathcote Junction, downstream to Dights Falls Abbotsford.

merri-creek-Spotted-pardalote

Photo: Adi Tudor

“What was once a shallow channel overgrown with weeds is now a free-flowing stream bounded by an abundance of canopy trees, understorey, restabilised banks, aquatic life and animals,” Macmillan said. 

“Wetlands every 200 metres or so along the creek will mitigate the polluting effects of urban stormwater. Dazzling restored wetlands in the upper Merri around Wallan will be northern Melbourne’s own ‘mini-Kakadu’.”

Save the date — 23 March 2022 — for the in-person launch of the Merri Creek Women’s Walk and take a look at the virtual trail here