Six Walks Episode One: Tony Birch on the Birrarung


Birrarung (Yarra) River This walk begins at Collingwood Children’s Farm and ends at Dights Falls. Key sites along the way include Deep Rock swimming hole and the Fairfield Pipe Bridge.

Access the key locations on Google Maps here »


6km, one way, approx. 1 hour walk.


ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) · Six Walks Episode 1: Tony Birch on the Birrarung

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts

Tony Birch’s walk, along a section of the Birrarung (Yarra) river from the Children’s Farm at Collingwood to the Fairfield ‘pipe-bridge’ and surrounding country, is located on the land of the Wurundjeri People of the greater Kulin Nation. Each time we walk we consider the privilege of being on Wurundjeri land and pay respect not only to their Elders – past, present and emerging – but all of their people. The Birrarung River is an ancient waterway. It precedes the birth of what we know today as Port Phillip Bay by tens of thousands of years. Prior to the formation of Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait, during the end of the Ice Age, the Birrarung flowed across a land mass known as the Bassian Plains, that joined what we know today as Victoria and Tasmania. The ancient Birrarung eventually flowed into the Southern Ocean. While the contemporary Birrarung River has changed significantly over thousands of years, we know that the original bed of the Ice Age river remains, and can be located around 100 metres below Port Phillip Bay at the heads of the bay. The significance of this geological, cultural and spiritual reality should not be lost on us as we walk by the river today. We are sharing a story of both the past and the present, enmeshed in the country beneath our feet.

Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and three short story collections, Father’s DayThe Promise and Common People. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. Birch is a frequent contributor to ABC local and national radio, a regular guest at writers’ festivals, and a climate justice campaigner.

Advisory note: contains mild coarse language

Curators: Annika Kristensen and Miriam Kelly
Audio technician: Simon Cotter
Transcription: Agnes Whalen


Please note that parts of this walk contain uneven terrain, steep incline, unpaved dirt, gravel and stairs. The walk between the Collingwood Children’s Farm and Dight’s Falls is an accessible and asphalt paved bicycle path. Collingwood Children’s farm can be accessed from St Heliers Street via asphalt paths and a timber bridge and boardwalk, all with gentle gradients. Paid parking and accessible parking are available at the Heliers Street entrance. However, please note that the Dights Falls viewing areas does not have wheelchair access. The walk between Dights Falls and the Fairfield Pipe Bridge and the return to Dights Falls includes uneven terrain, such as steep inclines and declines, areas of unpaved dirt, gravel and stairs. Please review the image documentation before embarking on this walk. The Fairfield Pipe Bridge can also be viewed from Fairfield Park and Fairfield Boathouse, accessible parking is available at Fairfield Park Drive, in the car park off Heidelberg Road. Guide dogs and assistance animals are welcome across all areas this walk.

Six Walks has been conceived to be ideally listened to in situ, with headphones on a personal mobile device. Maps, directions and access notes are included with each walk to assist with orientation. ACCA reminds participants to be aware of their surroundings and to adhere to road safety guidelines at all times. Please note that when undertaking a walk, participants must assume personal responsibility for any liability, injury, loss, or damage in any way connected with their experience of Six Walks.

Recorded in a podcast format, Six Walks can also be listened to from anywhere and at any time.

Introduction and Acknowledgement
Start – Collingwood Children’s Farm
The path from Collingwood Children’s Farm
Below the Johnston Street/Studley Park Bridge
Abbotsford factories made new with steel and glass
Looking towards Dights Falls
Old infrastructure at Dights Falls
The industrial history of the river at Dights Falls
Dights Falls today
The Eastern Freeway – above Merri Creek
Department of Crown Lands and Survey, Aerial Survey of Victoria, air photography by Adastra Airways Pty. Ltd. Published by The Dept., Melbourne, 1945. Accessible here
The Deep Rock Swimming Club commemorative stone
The ‘new’ Deep Rock
A bridge, a freeway, and a skyline
The Mystery Pool
Tracking the Birrarung
Fairfield Pipe Bridge
The return route
We take the City via Main Yarra Trail
This way – heading south
The last of the asylum
End – Dights Falls

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