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Dights Falls

A naturally occurring rock falls just below the junction of the Yarra River and Merri Creek, Dights Falls bisects sandstone to the east and volcanic deposits to the north and west. First sighted by Europeans in 1803, the current name refers to John Dight who, with his brother Charles, built the Ceres flour mill, completed in 1841. The mill was powered by water from a weir above the Falls constructed to manage the highly variable river flow. Subsequent mills on the site seem to have operated until 1909.

The area was an important site for Woi wurrung clans and a contact zone in the early colonial period. William Thomas, assistant Aboriginal protector, was headquartered close to the Falls (1843-47) and the Native Police Corps was stationed nearby (1843-4). The Merri Creek Aboriginal School (1845-51), just upstream, was supported by the ngurungaeta (clan head) Billibellari. Contemporary Wurundjeri trace their ancestry to students enrolled in this school.

Downstream of the Falls, noxious trades proliferated in the 19th century. Upstream, land to the east became Yarra Bend Park in 1933. For most of the 20th century, Dights Falls was relatively inaccessible to the general public. The completion of the Eastern Freeway in 1972 involved changes to the course of the Yarra which destroyed the Deep Rock Basin and transformed the area.

In the 1990s significant enhancements included the construction of a Koorie Garden; restoration of the bluestone mill race, parts of the mill and landscape restoration around the mill site; the addition of a fishway to the concrete-capped spillway to allow native fish to spawn; and improved public access.

In the early 21st century, canoeists ride the rapids, cyclists and pedestrians use the flood-prone Trail, and 'urban adventurers' explore the nearby drains. The factories and warehouses that backed onto the river are being transformed into apartments facing the river.

Chris Healy