History of the wetland

Follow the history of the Edithvale-Seaford wetlands, from their origins as Carrum Carrum Swamp -- territory of the indigenous Bunwurrung language group to the time of early settlement. Features local historian Graham Whitehead, who shares his grandfather's experiences trying to settle in a flood-prone swamp area.

This is one of six educational wetlands videos featuring the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands in Victoria, Australia.

5 September 2017
Audio described version


Narrator – N1

Speaker 2 – S2 (Graham Whitehead)


N1:   Melbourne Water look after many wetlands located all across the Melbourne area and some of these wetlands have a long history.

The Edithvale-Seaford wetlands were once part of the much bigger Carrum Carrum Swamp, which covered the land for hundreds of years

[on-screen text: History of the Wetlands]

N1: This is Graham Whitehead – he’s an expert in our local history and knows all about the way people used to live in this area.

[on-screen text: Graham Whitehead, City of Kingston Historian]

S2: Carrum Swamp has a very rich history. Both for the people who lived there and the events that took place there.

N1: This area, where the Edithvale and Seaford wetlands are now located, was traditionally territory of the indigenous Bunwurrung language group, which was made up of at least six groups who spoke the language.

[on-screen text: Bunwurrung (also known as Boon Wurrung and Bunurong)]

These groups lived off the lands that covered the coastal strip around Port Phillip Bay and Western Port, hunting, fishing and raising their families.

S2: The Europeans, the white men, after the Gold Rushes in the 1850s, they wanted land to farm. So the government did a number of surveys of the Carrum Swamp. And the surveyors said, the land was very rich but it needed to be drained.

N1: Despite this fact, the government decided in 1871 to make the land available to a group of men, and their families, to clear, farm and live on.

S2: Excess water continued to be a problem. One man couldn’t reach the end of his property unless he rowed his rowing boat. And my great grandfather, he was down there as well, and he had trouble putting the posts of his fencing in because the soil was soggy with water. So things were very, very difficult.

N1: In 1879, Patterson’s cut was made through the sand dunes separating the swamp from the ocean, to help drain some of the water into Port Phillip Bay, making conditions a bit more liveable for the farmers and their families.

S2: Flooding was a continuing problem. 1904 was a big flood. And for almost every 10 years, there was a big flood. 1952, almost a thousand homes had to be evacuated because of excess water.

N1: Eventually, drainage engineers were able to build drains and barriers to protect the houses from flooding. The remaining wetlands, here at Edithvale and Seaford, also help to keep the houses from being flooded by storing floodwaters.

S2: Today there is still evidence of how it was in the past. Here at Edithvale wetlands you can still see the conditions under which these early settlers lived.

N1: Can you imagine having to walk through knee-deep water just to get milk from the local shops? You can find out more about the local past happenings at the Parkdale Library or the Chelsea Historical Society.

[Melbourne Water logo; tagline ‘Celebrating the history of our wetlands’]