Riverfest brings it

The health of the river is tied to the survival of the rare native bird population. Picture: TANYA STEELE

By Tanya Steele

Yarra Valley has played part host to the first-ever Birrarung Riverfest this year, celebrating the Yarra River from 24 September (World River’s Day) to 22 October.

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association held events from platypus spotting to river cruises and habitat planting for the public to attend and enjoy.

On Thursday 19 October, a Riverfest group enjoyed a special walk habitat walk through and planting session in Yellingbo with Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater (FOHH) as part of the festivities.

Environmental Coordinator at FOTHH Eliza Lamb said by coming and joining in some of the activities, members of the community can get engaged with environmental issues.

“They can be part of the solution, they can learn how they can make an impact,” she said.

The group planted a range of species of plants suitable for the honeyeater to forage, build nests and hide from predators.

“We had lots of children attending, so it was a fun day to be able to talk about the species plant habitat together, and also go for a bit of a walk,” she said.

The group also took part in the “Aussie Bird Count” which took place from 16 to 22 October.

“We found over 15 species of birds, that was good fun” Ms Lamb said.

Ms Lamb said that the helmeted honeyeater is really dependant on healthy waterways and the Woori Yallock Creek sub-catchment is vital to the diminished bird population.

“They need that water to survive, the health of the river and the birds are connected,” she said.

Yarra Riverkeeper Charlotte Sterrett said it has been really great to see the community come out to celebrate connect and care for the Birrarung.

“We’ve had fantastic attendance and engagement from communities up and down the river,” she said.

From a puppet parade up in Yarra Glen to a nature discovery walk with Park Victoria out in Don Valley – there’s been such a diversity of events and really interesting conversations.”

The Riverkeeper Association is an independent organization and Ms Sterret said that as a result of the advocacy that they’ve been doing, in 2017, the Yarra River was legislated as a living integrated entity.

“Since then, they’ve developed a 50 year community vision and a 10 year strategic plan to restore the river to full health,” she said.

Ms Sterrett said it’s been really heartening to see how people have come along and shared their hopes and dreams for the river.

“We hope that this will really set us up for an annual event,” she said.

The Birrarung Riverfest came together fairly quickly in its first year and Ms Sterrett hopes to expand with more events and funding in the future.

“We’ll see more people, including councils become involved, more community education – next year, we’d like to see at least one event per council area,” she said.

Ms Sterrett said that climate change and pollution are the main issues facing the river in years to come.

“I am always hopeful, you have to be,” she said.