At its core, RidgeWalk is about stories. Stories that explore humans’ connection to land and how this connection has played out within the Dandenong Ranges over millennia. These stories will be told by many voices and through multiple channels across a 39km walking track.
There are numerous iconic Australian art works that feature the Dandenong Ranges, including William Barak’s “Ceremony”, Eugene von Guerard’s “Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges” paintings, landscape paintings by Heidelberg School artists such as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, modernist landscape paintings by Fred Williams, who lived in Upwey, and the art of Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus who drew on the rainforest around his home in Belgrave as inspiration for his art.
Given RidgeWalk’s strong emphasis on narrative, two cultural studies were completed to inform the project. These studies outline the stories that will be brought to life through the project’s dynamic creative program.
Ridgewalk: A History of Culture, Artists and Creativity in the Dandenong Ranges
In 2017, Yarra Ranges Council commissioned, Ridgewalk A History of Culture, Artists and Creativity in the Dandenong Ranges. The report was developed by Bronwyn Hannah History and Heritage in collaboration with local history groups.
- Three brief historical accounts of the Dandenong Ranges — natural history, Aboriginal history and colonial/postcolonial history
- A stand-alone illustrated catalogue with 30 entries on the life and work of locally distinguished individuals and five accounts of local creative households
Aboriginal Cultural Values Assessment Report
In 2019, Yarra Ranges Council worked with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Boon Wurrung Foundation and Extent Heritage to create an Aboriginal cultural values report. The report provides a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture and history in the Dandenong Ranges.
Key themes from the report:
- Contributions of significant past Elders who have been active in the Dandenong Ranges
- Importance of the mountain environment in the provision of food (kangaroo, eels, fern hearts) and commodities (lyrebird tails)
- Association of the mountains and ridges with the flow of water, travel and movement
- The tourist trade of the mid-20th century attracting Aboriginal entrepreneurs such as Bill Onus and drawing the nation’s attention to Aboriginal arts and crafts
- Presence of extensive forested crown lands provided a setting for the occupation and reclamation of land by the Bunurong Land Rights Claim in the 20th century
Community and stakeholder engagement serve a critical role in the project’s development and will continue to guide RidgeWalk into the future.
Over 1200 people, 53 local groups and organisations and 7 government agencies have contributed project planning.
Yarra Ranges Council has consulted with:
- Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation
- Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
- Boon Wurrung Foundation
- Council’s Indigenous Advisory Committee
- Disability Advisory Committee
- Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water, Department of Transport
- CFA, local residents, artists, local environmental groups, businesses, community and cultural organisations
The majority of people involved have expressed excitement about the project and the opportunities and benefits it provides. The shaping of RidgeWalk, including the trail route, thematic content, curatorial principles, and digital platforms has been directly improved by community and stakeholder input. Some concerns raised regarding environmental impact, maintenance, transportation and accessibility prompted targeted investigation, which have provided a deeper understanding and allowed for sustainable solutions to be integrated into the project plans.
The diverse range of perspectives and recommendations offered through engagement activities has benefitted the RidgeWalk project. Council and key partners will continue to be in dialog with community and stakeholders as RidgeWalk develops.