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(3032, 8 km NW, Maribyrnong City)

An industrial, commercial and residential district north of Maidstone, Maribyrnong is bounded by the Maribyrnong River, from which it takes its name. Part of the Shire of Braybrook and subsequently of the City of Sunshine, Maribyrnong was incorporated into the City of Maribyrnong upon its creation in 1994.

At Maribyrnong the river describes its last great meander before joining the Yarra River opposite Yarraville. The landscape of this section of the river estuary is spectacular: the elevated hill overlooks the river floodplain, where flash floods occasionally visit disaster on businesses and householders. The Wurundjeri people occupied the river valley before the arrival of Europeans in the 1840s, and English-speaking settlers' 'Maribyrnong' probably came from Mirring-gnai-birr-nong (I can hear a ring-tail possum) in the Woi wurrung language. Being usually tidal, and therefore salt, the Maribyrnong attracted pastoralists interested in resting and then killing stock for Melbourne and overseas markets in tallow and preserved (and, later, frozen) meat. Raleigh Road is named after Joseph Raleigh who bought the eastern half of Maribyrnong in 1847 and operated a punt for gold seekers in the 1850s. He built a mansion for his family, and a barracks (later known as Malakoff Castle) for the workers in his boiling-down works. These works were subsequently occupied by the Victorian Iron Works that built and supplied the colony's first locomotive in 1854.

In the 1860s the Fisher brothers established a horse stud at the Raleigh mansion. The Melbourne Meat Preserving Co. built a village for their workers in 1867, but the export trade had variable success. When major expansion came with the advent of refrigeration in the 1880s, Maribyrnong's distance from Hobsons Bay was judged a severe disadvantage and slaughtering and shipping were transferred to Newport. The collapse of industry also lessened river pollution, and by the turn of the century Maribyrnong had re-emerged as a picnic, sailing and fishing spot attracting excursionists to its hotels, tea-rooms, cruise boats, and open-air picture theatre.

Respite was short-lived. When noxious traders, fleeing controls at Flemington and Footscray, relocated to Bray-brook, Essendon and Maribyrnong, residents campaigned to clean up the Saltwater River and rename it the Maribyrnong. The name change came in 1913; the battle for a clean river lasted several generations. In the 20th century Maribyrnong itself industrialised. The federal government cordite works, established on the Maribyrnong racecourse site from 1910, were followed, in 1914, with a centre for the Royal Australian Field Artillery, which gave way to an ordnance factory in the 1920s. From 1911 the Hume brothers established a concrete pipe works at the former meatworks, expanding in the 1920s, eliminating the remnants of Raleigh's 'castle'.

Maribyrnong drew more workers than it housed. There were only a couple of hundred households and one school when the 1930s depression hit. When war came in 1939 environmental concerns became secondary to national survival. Defence industries boomed, with a peak of more than 6000 munitions workers in 1943. Trams were extended from Footscray and Moonee Ponds. The postwar years were marked by industrial diversification, extended housing and resident pressure for improved community facilities. Maribyrnong's 1950s Sunset Drive-In and Tracey's Speedway drew denizens of the western suburbs to watch stock-car races and spectacular pile-ups.

The flatlands of Maribyrnong were flooded in May 1974, but Highpoint West Shopping Centre, constructed in the bowels of the former Essendon City quarry, was high and dry when it opened in 1975. When Hume Pipes decamped to Laverton in 1978, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works moved in, but pressure for the preservation of open space in the 1980s saw the site become Pipemakers Park. The winding back of Commonwealth defence industries in the 1990s provided fresh opportunities for housing and parklands, issues that have been central to planning. Though Maribyrnong is perhaps best known nationally for its association, firstly with the migrant hostel and later the Immigration Detention Centre, locally there is some realisation that the district's rich and varied history has been shaped by starkly contrasting human estimates of the opportunities provided by its river and landscape - as a pleasure ground or industrial sump, as a bucolic retreat or an industrial engine house, as a receptive halfway house for settlers and migrants or a de facto prison for asylum seekers, as a quiet suburban residential retreat or as an industrial satellite. The assimilation of the histories and present realities of Footscray and Maribyrnong provides residents and leaders of the new city with a strong challenge. Yet de-industrialisation, rising land values, and bounding consumerism appear to offer much common ground.

John Lack