Friends of Skeleton Creek
We’re a family-friendly group who get together monthly with local council conservation rangers to put back indigenous plants or to do maintenance. The Friends of Skeleton Creek was initially formed in 1991 by a group of local people who wanted something done to protect and revegetate the creek environment.
Skeleton Creek originates as a series of often dry watercourses in a rural area near Mt Atkinson (a low lava cone), west of Ravenhall, and runs through Truganina, Tarneit, Hoppers Crossing, Point Cook, Seabrook, and Altona Meadows.
The new housing precincts of Mt Atkinson and Tarneit Plains in this western growth corridor will impact on the natural flow of Skeleton Creek as the new estates eventually join onto suburban Melbourne. Skeleton Creek passes through the precincts from north to south, converging with Dry Creek in the south-west corner.
The entire creek and its tributaries, including Tarneit Creek, will become critical as a remaining habitat corridor once all the open country is built over; stormwater treatment wetlands will provide additional habitat for a range of fauna species.
Skeleton Creek, which drops around 60 m over its 15 km length, eventually flows into the Cheetham Wetlands (also known as Altona Bay Wetlands), a site of international significance for migratory birds, then into Port Phillip Bay.
Creek fauna includes diverse bird species, the more common being ducks and swans, along with eastern long-neck turtles, native water rats and many species of frogs. Our creek has picturesque bike and walking paths that link with trails to the city.
Our group’s planting activities, in cooperation with Melbourne Water and the local councils, are making a noticeable difference to our creek and the natural environment - such as improved water quality, a seed source for indigenous plants, and a food source for birds and insects – but this conservation work needs to be sustained with the helping hands of volunteers.
Denice Perryman - 0429 167 013
Angela Whiffin - 0430 551 631
12 Hopetoun Crt, Altona Meadows, Vic 3028
Friends of Skeleton Creek Community Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/friendsofskeletoncreek/
When the Europeans came in 1835 the caretakers of the lower Skeleton Creek catchment were the Yalukit-willam (pronounced Yull-loo-kit wee-lum) clan of the Boon wurrung people or language group. Yalukit-willam means ‘river home’ or ‘people of the river’. The Yalukit-willam were the westernmost of the Boon wurrung clans, whose estate was from the top of Port Phillip Bay to the mouth of the Werribee River, including St Kilda, Williamstown, Altona and Point Cook.
At the northern source of Skeleton Creek, near Mount Cottrell, west of Caroline Springs, the indigenous caretakers were the Kurung-jang-balluk clan of the Woi wurrung people or language group. Kurung-jang-balluk means ‘red ground people’, referring to the red basalt soils in their estate. The Yalukit-willam most likely shared their resources with the Kurung-jang-balluk.
The Yalukit-willam and Kurung-jang-balluk neighbours were allied with other clans of the Kulin group of languages of indigenous nations in Central and Southern Victoria.
One of the Yalukit-willam leaders and very well-known indigenous spokesperson in early Melbourne was Derrimut. Subsequent events showed Derrimut’s faith in his friendship with leading settlers to be misplaced. Nevertheless, today the western Melbourne suburb of Derrimut honours his name and memory.
Waterways defined the boundaries of most of Melbourne’s clans. Boon wurrung lands were mainly those with streams that flowed to the sea. Skeleton Creek supplied fish, waterbirds, reptiles, small mammals, and eels from swamps (in autumn). Water plants supplied food and baskets to wrap and cook the abundant yam daisy (Microseris species, called ‘murnong’ by the Yalukit-willam); when harvesting the yam daisy, a portion of the tuberous root was left to be harvested the next season.
In the Wyndham Council municipality there are over 10 archaeological sites, once large campsites, which indicate social and economic activity by Aboriginal residents between the Werribee River and Skeleton Creek. In the Hobsons Bay Council area a number of archaeological sites of significance to the indigenous community are located throughout the municipality, particularly along the coastal trail. Several sites have been found on the banks of Skeleton Creek, outside of the former Cheetham saltworks. These sites may be part of a continuous line of occupation on both north and south banks of the creek.
In 1802 Matthew Flinders was the first European to see the plains of the Skeleton Creek catchment from the You Yangs. In 1824 Hume and Hovell noted the abundant game and plentiful water and rich grasslands. The aborigines were then a healthy population.
In 1836 John Wedge (John Batman’s surveyor) was one of the first to bring over sheep from Tasmania, to his station at Werribee, which included land around Skeleton Creek.
Skeleton Creek is officially called ‘Skeleton Waterholes Creek’, because flows were seasonal and when dry resembled the outline of a skeleton. John Wedge noted it was a bare bones of a creek and nothing more. Some settlers coming after Wedge named it ‘Chain of Ponds’.
Squatters next moved in and sheep ate out or trampled the native grasses and yam daisy, an aboriginal staple food. Murders of Europeans and aborigines followed. Arsenic-laced flour and white diseases took their toll on the aborigines.
In 1849 Alfred Langhorne, the first settler in Altona (then called the ‘Laverton Homestead Run’), was allotted occupation licences of large parcels of land, half of which was located around Skeleton Creek.
In 1851 Thomas Chirnside became the dominant landowner when the crown lands of the squatters were sold off as freehold. In a complex history of land ownership the boundaries of what became the Point Cook Estate are unclear, but it is apparent that all the land south of Skeleton Creek and west of Aviation Road was contained within in the Chirnside property of some 32,375 hectares; this included Thomas Chirnside’s homestead at Point Cook and later, in partnership with his brother Andrew, the homestead and bluestone mansion at Werribee Park.
At this time, rabbits and foxes were introduced.
The Cheetham saltworks was established in 1924 on the lower reaches of Skeleton Creek and several parcels of land surrounding the wetlands. The saltworks closed in 1992 and the area is now an internationally recognised waterbird site. It has protection under the Ramsar treaty (adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971) because of its importance to international migratory birds.
Since European settlement, Skeleton Creek has suffered considerable degradation, with recent rapid urban expansion in Melbourne’s west growth corridor increasing the pressures on our creek - hence the need to restore it now and for future generations.
Once a month - normally on a Sunday for two hours from 13:00 to 15:00, we get together to improve the creek and catchment by planting, weeding, mulch spreading, watering or rubbish collection.
We are a social group and welcome all who are able to join us, even if you can only find time to contribute a few hours during the year. A local council ranger is always in attendance to work with us. Just come in outdoor work clothes, sturdy footwear and a hat. Gloves and tools as well as afternoon tea are provided.
Membership to Friends of Skeleton Creek is not compulsory, but it can help you feel more connected with our group. Annual Individual FoSC Membership/Mailing List is $10.00, and Family FoSC Membership/Mailing List is $15.00.
Download the current Membership form
The Friends of Skeleton Creek meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month (except January) at the Secretary's home in Altona Meadows. Meetings begin at 19:00, and all are welcome.