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Since the early 1840s Melbourne’s Lower Yarra River was used by the city’s noxious, manufacturing and maritime industries as a source of water, a convenient sewer, and main transport link with the outside world. By the 1890s the sluggish, meandering, and narrow Lower Yarra had been transformed into an industrial river. Major industries were scattered along its banks and the city’s main ports located along its lower reach. By 1980, many of these industries had, or were in the process of closing, while the port had consolidated further downstream. During this period of deindustrialisation Melbourne had largely ignored the Yarra; some commentators argued there was good reason for doing so. In its determination to improve the quality and public perceptions of the lower Yarra, the Age newspaper launched a campaign to ‘Give the Yarra a go’. The campaign was claimed to be one the paper’s most successful, and resulted in major changes that fed into the river’s post-industrial transformation. This paper examines the context and background to the campaign, its results, and continuing legacies. It also examines the question – does Melbourne’s CBD remain with its back to the river, or has it finally become a riverside city?

Publication Details
Source title:
Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2018
Publication Year: