The transformation of Western Creek

There once was a creek, and now there isn’t. Like the landscape around it, Western Creek has been radically transformed as a result of European settlement and subsequent urbanisation. Piecing together the story of how, when and where that transformation happened is one way of understanding the history of the area. More often, local history is told through the names of the pioneers and land owners who settled an area, and of the families, businesses, officials and workers who built the community. This focus on the social, cultural and economic aspects of history both reflects and reinforces how we tend to think of the urban environment today — as a space made for people and by people, and one that is rarely understood or defined outside of these terms. It is easy to forget that the urban environment even had a natural history, let alone one that we can still engage with today.

In the most heavily urbanised environments, few (if any) links with the original landscape remain, having been entombed in a shell of concrete and bitumen. But in the suburbs, there are usually still clues about the landscape’s living past — an exposed drain here, a low-lying park there, a remnant patch of bush, or perhaps a solitary old tree that has watched the city grow up around it. If we ask the right questions and join the right dots, we can weave these clues back into a coherent story that not only enriches our understanding of our cultural history but also restores some prominence to the natural landscape on which that history is built.

The following pages attempt to retrace the history and transformation of Western Creek through explorations of specific landmarks in the modern environment. Or at least, they will, once I write them. This whole project started as a local history investigation (focused on Red Jacket Swamp) but soon became sidetracked into geographical detective work in an effort to understand the entire creek and catchment. Now that the geography is done, I am returning to the history. But bare with me, it could take some time to complete!

  • How the creek once was – The nature and significance of the creek before European settlement, including its connection with indigenous people.
  • Milton Drain – How the tidal inlet known as Western Creek became a big concrete drain.
  • Red Jacket Swamp – How a notorious swamp became Rosalie’s playground.
  • Rosalie Village – How a thriving community grew up seemingly forgetting that it was not only built on a creek, but also on a major floodplain.
  • Fernberg – How a block of land in Paddington was actually left with some trees on it.
  • Norman Buchan Park.
  • Rainworth.
  • Last modified: August 9, 2012