The Yarra - UrbansystemsIGS

How the Yarra
River affected
people in the
early 1900’s.
Tessa Newland
What is the geography of the
Yarra River?
From 1879 onwards, the Lower Yarra River’s course was significantly
changed in order to eliminate floods.
In 1886, the original loop in the river, west of today’s Docklands, was
removed through the construction of a 1.5km canal called The Coode
Canal (at Fisherman’s Bend). The Coode Canal was designed by a
British Engineer, Sir John Coode. The Coode Canal was designed to
improve access for ships to Melbourne’s main river docks. This
construction took 20 years and shortened travel time for boats going up
the river and also created the Victoria Dock.
From the 1880’s onwards, the City Council improved the Yarra’s northern
bank upstream of Princes Bridge to help the river flow more directly to
Port Phillip Bay.
Between 1924 and 1929, the council removed 24,000 items of natural
debris from the river in order to improve flood control. In 1929, a new
river channel was cut at Burnley, part of the Richmond precinct,
creating Herring Island in the process.
In the 1960’s the construction of the Eastern Freeway began, further
altering the course of the River.
Coode Canal, 1930
Herring Island, 1930
Victoria Dock, 1925
What is the importance of the
Yarra River to Richmond in its
early settlement?
The Yarra River was a major source of food and a
meeting place for indigenous Australians during
the prehistoric times.
Some of the food they were able to hunt in the
Yarra included fish, short-finned eels, the Australian
water rat and the Pobblebonk Frog.
After the arrival of European settlers, land clearing
forced the Wurundjeri people away from the river
and into other territories.
Before the European settlers settled in Melbourne
there was an estimated 20,000 Aboriginals.
Wurundjeri Tribe, 1835
How was the Yarra River used
for transportation?
Citizens used small paddle boats to make
their way across the Yarra as an alternative to
walking, driving (if they had cars) or by horse
and cart.
Another use was by businesses and trade
markets, getting one product or material
source to another place in a much simpler
and quicker way.
Businesses that wanted to trade used much
larger boats called Steam Paddle Boats. They
needed larger boats to simply fit a lot more
on and a stronger build to assist in making it
move faster.
Larger Steam Paddle boat, 1885
Family paddle boats, 1900’s
How did the floods of the Yarra
River affect the people in
Just like today, floods caused an enormous
amount of inconvenience. Homes were
ruined, valuables were lost, people’s health
were in danger and there was limited access
to other places.
Although the 1900’s and today’s impact of
floods are very similar, the hype of it was
much worse. This is because homes weren’t
made out of as strong and good quality
materials and there was a lack of health
immunisations like the ones we have today.
Yarra River Flood, 1934
How did the use of the Yarra
River contribute to water
In the early years of European settlement the Yarra River was used as a
dumping ground for industrial waste. Some of the things that were
dumping included paints, oils, metals and litter.
Melbourne relied on the Yarra as a source of drinking water but because
of the amount of waste within in it many residents were diagnosed with
Typhoid and Diphtheria. (Typhoid is an infectious fever with an eruption
of red spots on the chest and abdomen and severe intestinal irritation,
caused by the bacterium and Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease
caused by the bacterium Corvnebacterium diphtheria).
This lead to a royal commission, resulting in a water treatment plant
being built in Werribee in order to reduce water pollution.
About 100,000 hectares of land around the source of the Yarra was
blocked off from people to assist in providing higher quality drinking
water for the people of Melbourne. This had a profound impact on the
transport of people, the food they may have gained from the Yarra and
many other inconveniences.
Both a water treatment plant and land around the river being blocked
off has been a major role in improving the Yarra River’s water quality for
people in Melbourne today.
Washed up waste, 1920
How was the Yarra River used
in trade?
They used the Victoria port as a place for ships to
come in, deliver their goods and receive goods.
The main imports and exports via the Yarra River
included things like foods, goods (wool/materials,
building materials) and coal.
Due to the straightening and widening of the river
the ability to trade became a lot more successful.
The transportation of ships was therefore a lot
faster and more efficient.
Consequently to the Victoria Dock opening, by
1908 it was handling ninety percent of Victoria's
A beer trade, 1920
How did the Yarra River act as
a border between the rich and
poor people?
Ever since people existed there has been a social
order in which people are categorised due to their
wealth, jobs and family history.
Due to the Yarra’s floods wealthier people were
situated at higher points of the land and poor
people down the bottom. This border between
them was due to many people’s needs to prove
and show other people that they were important.
The prices of homes in the 1900’s was much
different to today and varied a great amount.
Poor people paid around $400 to $800 at the
most with the wealthier people paying $1,000 to
Wealthy people, 1920
Poor family, 1920
How did the pollution of the
Yarra River affect the people?
 The
Yarra River originally attracted people
to it due to the amount of gold found
within it and the business opportunities it
held; however the pollution because of
sewerage and industrial waste dumping
into the river and the flooding that
occurred caused the population to
decrease dramatically.
Water testing, 1920
What was the importance of
the Yarra River to businesses
and factories?
 The
Yarra River was used by businesses,
factories and industries. Having the Yarra
River close to their businesses was a very
convenient and free option to remove
waste and save money and time.
Factory in Melbourne,
How was the Yarra River used
for industrialisation?
In the 19th century the mouth of the Yarra River was widened
to make way for docks, harbours, bridges and other
The increasing industrialisation of the river and the growth of
the shipping industry saw the need for the creation of new
shipping channels to cope with the growing use of the Yarra
River by cargo ships in 1870’s. These cargo ships brought in
things like coal.
A new dock was excavated, eventually opening in 1892. (The
dock was later renamed Victorian Dock.)
In 1910, the main channel was widened and deepened to
enable larger to ships to pass.
In 1942, the old course of the Yarra River at Coode Island had
been filled in and was completely gone by the1950’s.
Between 1966 and 1972 Swanston’s dock was constructed
and the use of Victoria Dock decreased and was completely
disused by the mid- 1970’s.
Submarine entering the industrialised
area of the Yarra River, 1920
Yarra River’s worst floods
In the century between the founding of Melbourne in 1835
and the devastating flood of 1934 it was the Yarra River
that determined how the city developed.
Nicknamed the ‘Great Flood’.
The Yarra River rose 14 metres above its normal level in
some areas.
Flooded the riverside suburbs of Collingwood, Richmond
and Prahran, causing extensive damage.
Approximately 3,000 people were left homeless.
350mm of rain fell in 48 hours over the Yarra catchment,
with 140mm falling over metropolitan areas.
Six thousand people were left homeless, and eighteen
people died.
Flood, 1891
Flood, 1934
Originally the Yarra River was called the ‘Birrarung’ by the
Wurundjeri people. The current name ‘Yarra,’ was
mistranslated by the Wurundjeri term “Yarra, Yarra.”
Meaning‘ever flowing.’
The length of the Yarra River is 242 kilometres long.
The Yarra River is brown because of the suspended silt
carried downstream.
The state of the river has dictated the amount of
population size around the Yarra River. The population in
the 1920’s was 1million compared to today’s population
which is 4 million.
The river is sometimes referred to as the river that’s runs
upside down.
350 thousand cigarette butts enter the Yarra Catchment
storm water runoff every day.
There are jelly fish in the Yarra River.
Turtles live in the Yarra River.
I hope you
enjoyed my

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