Footscray Wharves and Environs

Pathways / Lines of Desire

There is a diagonal path across Grimes Reserve that might roughly follow the original track from the punt,
where it stopped on the west bank of the Maribyrnong River.

It is an important aspect of ‘heritage’, in the broader sense, that some parts of our major highways still follow the earlier paths of wallabies and other animals, which followed the natural lay of the land and the direction of Aboriginal people.

The first people of Australia, the local Aboriginals, established the first tracks and trails by directing the indigenous game to particular areas through fire stick farming so that they could hunt and trap them and by following and intervening with the animals pathways to water.

Aboriginal people established trade routes and paths of travel throughout Australia.

Billibilleri and Derrimut are two of the local people that were here at the beginning of the white man’s history in this region. They had a way of living that was different to and much older than European history.

Billibilleri was born about 1791 and died on August 10th 1846. He was a leader of the Gunung-Willam-Balluk clan of the Woiworung tribe and his family owned the rights to quarry a particular stone from Mt. William, near Lancefield, that was traded throughout Victoria and far into New South Wales. He was a stone axe maker and trader. Billibilleri, known as Jacky Jacky to the Europeans, was a powerful figure in his day and was said to be a signatory to the ‘Batman Treaty’. Many of Billibilleri’s descendants live and work in Melbourne today.

Derrimut of the Bunurong was commemorated by the early settlers of Melbourne for saving them from a planned attack and massacre by the Woiworung by informing them through a young member of the European party, who he befriended, of the impending attack.

William Buckley passed this way. William Buckley, the legendary ‘wild white man’ who lived with the Aborigines for thirty years after escaping from the penal settlement in Sorrento in 1802, walked in Footscray.

Artists impression of William Buckley when
he was living with the Aborigines.

After being re-united with Europeans he spent some time travelling between Melbourne and his adopted tribe on the Barwon, crossing the Maribyrnong at Footscray.

The article in the Footscray Advertiser on October 18, 1934 says early settlers of Footscray got information from him regarding Batman’s presence in Footscray. There is also a rumor that Buckley built a chimney somewhere in Footscray.

William Buckley as he appeared after returning to European civilisation.

What bearing do the tracks established by people like Billibilleri and the wanderings of William Buckley have on our understanding of the growth of Footscray. The paths that people used and travelled are probably as important to survey as the sites. After all many of the sites are established simply as stopping points along these pathways.

Buckley was just one of thousands who criss-crossed this section of river, probably millions by now. Some passed through and left no trace. Some left an indelible imprint on the growing community, one way or another.

The paths travelled in the early days were slow and difficult. There were no roads, no railway and no bridges. People walked and rode horses and crossed the river by punt or ford. Travellers between Williamstown and Melbourne or Melbourne and the west in general crossed the Maribyrnong at fords further upstream in the Braybrook – Keilor area. This meant a lot of extra walking.

So punts and ferries were brought into the operation at certain key points like the Maribyrnong area in Footscray, just north of the Yarra Junction, and a number of ferry services came and went in the first few years. One of the first was organised in 1839 by captain William Lonsdale, the first police Magistrate of the young Port Phillip settlement from 1836-39.

In 1839 William Lonsdale set up a punt across the Maribyrnong in the survey area. Lonsdale was Police Magistrate for the colony at the time.

Woman played an important role in establishing colonial communities and infrastructure during this time. Particularly newly arrived migrants from Ireland, refugees from the potato famine, who established farms, pubs and punts over the river. More information is incuded on the page Irish Women.

As there were no roads travellers tended to follow the contours of the land or the tracks of others, one of these natural pathways from Williamstown and Geelong passed diagonally through what is now known as Grimes Reserve directly down to the punt. The footpath through Grimes Reserve still more or less basically follows this original trail.

This natural ‘trail’ continues as Moreland Street that takes road traffic to Williamstown now. Moreland Street is at an odd angle to the rest of  the later roads in the immediate area, partly because it was built on the natural walking trail that followed the trail of people and horses walking from the punt.

Moreland Street, Footscray, continues the roughly angular pathway from the punt where it has now become a road.
This photo was taken from the corner of Parker Street.