Melbourne Dreaming by Meyer Eidelson

Explore the Aboriginal heritage of Melbourne

By Laura McKinnon
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River Yarra (Rainbow) Pedestrian Bridge.

River Yarra (Rainbow) Pedestrian Bridge.

Melbourne Dreaming - Meyer Eidelson
Gayip, artists Nadim Karam and Mandy Nicholson.
Melbourne Dreaming - Meyer Eidelson with 400 y.o. St Kilda Ngargee (corroboree) Tree in background
Birrarung Willam (River Camp), Birrarung Marr Park. Photograph by Hari Ho.


When you think of Melbourne you might think of coffee-filled lane ways, fine food, wine or maybe even sport; but have you ever stopped to consider its Aboriginal heritage? Melbourne Dreaming is a book for visitors and locals alike, opening your eyes to the number and variety of Aboriginal places that still exist in this modern city.

Since I have been old enough to travel into the city centre I have been visiting Southbank, the University of Melbourne precinct and the Royal Botanic Gardens, unaware of the stories and links to Australia's first people.

Broken into the geographic regions of City Centre and Surrounds, East, Inner North, Outer North, West, South and Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne Dreaming has many of the familiar characteristics of a travel guide. Each region chapter starts with a map, description of the area and a note about its Aboriginal people.

The rest of the chapter is broken down into sites of interest in these regions, alongside historic notes, drawings and photos. A text box highlights the exact location of each site, how to get there, any opening hours and facilities such as toilets. Sites described vary from cultural and historic walks to sculptures, museums and galleries.

The first site listed, the Birrarung (Yarra) Art and Heritage Walk, is one that attracted my attention straight away. It includes many streets and sites I have walked past hundreds of times without undertanding their significance.

A good example of this is the Gayip sculpture in Queensbridge Square. A symbol of friendship between the tribes, it marks the location the tribes would meet to trade, for marriages, dispute resolution, dance and story telling.

The Gayip sculpture is also the first in a larger sculptural piece called The Travellers, a series of large steel sculptures over the Sandridge Bridge that symbolise the nine eras of immigration to Melbourne. As you walk along the Sandridge Bridge, 128 glass screens record both the Koorie and immigrant history of Victoria.

Gayip is the only sculpture fixed to land symbolising the unique status of Australia's first inhabitants.

Another sculpture I regularly pass is Bunjil at the southern entry to the Docklands. So much more than just a giant bird, it is a wedge-tailed eagle, and symbolises the spirit creator of the Kulin Nation.

Other sites on the walk include the Birrarung Marr Park, William Barak Bridge and the Tribute Garden.

Developed with support from the Wurundjeri Council and Wurundjeri elder Margaret Gardiner, Billibellary’s Walk is another self-guided Indigenous interpretation trail though the University of Melbourne. The walk is named in honour of Billibellary, the highly respected Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri Willam clan of the Woiwurrung, and provides a narrative that allows University visitors to imagine the landscape across time.

Melbourne Dreaming provides you with a guide on how to find and start the trail as well as a taste of what you will find along the way. There is just the right amount of information to entice you to take the trail without detailing everything you will experience.

Melbourne Dreaming doesn't confine itself to the sites within the central business district with many sites listed from the outer suburbs and Mornington Peninsula.

A site local to me, Bunjil's Cave at Cape Schanck has caught my eye and while I haven't been brave enough to attempt a visit (access is limited to low tide in good weather)  I am keen to see the cave when the weather conditions permit. The Aboriginal story describes how Bunjil the creator in eagle form sheltered from a storm in the cave. The accompanying picture clearly show the cave but omits to show you the beauty of the surrounding area briefly described in the text.

Melbourne Dreaming is a fascinating read and a great guide to a side of Melbourne too often unexplored and overlooked. It is a side of the city full of culture and history. There is a variety of experiences ranging from walking trails to galleries, meaning there are sites suitable for all visitors, children and adults alike. Some of them you will read about so you can appreciate them better as you walk or drive by, others you will find yourself wanting to make a special trip to visit.

Melbourne Dreaming is published in Australia by Aboriginal Studies Press (Canberra, ACT, 2014; sc, 146pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$29.95.

Best Bush, Town and Village Walks in and around the ACT by Marion Stuart (Zissis) is published by Woodslane Press Pty Ltd (Warriewood, NSW, 2012; sc, 212 pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$29.99 - See more at:
Best Bush, Town and Village Walks in and around the ACT by Marion Stuart (Zissis) is published by Woodslane Press Pty Ltd (Warriewood, NSW, 2012; sc, 212 pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$29.99 - See more at:

Melbourne Dreaming can be purchased via booko here




  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Melbourne (VIC)

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October 27th, 2014
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