Albert Park

From the Port Melbourne Lagoon at its northern end, to the larger complex of lagoons and swamps that were eventually controlled and used to create Albert Park Lake, the Albert Park area has traditionally been a low-lying area of marshy flatlands. Only the Emerald Hill area – the shopping strip on Bridport St and the nearby gardens of St Vincent’s Place – lies more than three metres above sea level. That’s the way the original inhabitants of the area liked it. Not the humans – they came much later – but the kangaroos.

The area today occupied by Albert Park – and much of the surrounding suburbs bounded by the Yarra River and the hills of South Yarra and St Kilda – was the unchallenged domain of a mob of unusually large and savage Eastern (grey) kangaroos for centuries prior to the coming of the Kulin peoples to the region. Various theories have been advanced to account for the unusual savagery of these kangaroos, and it is believed that it may be attributable to the unusually high salt content of their diet. Their unusual size is less well explained, although the most popular theory is that it also had to do with diet: the roos theoretically ate a now-extinct native plant that grew only in this area. It is not true, despite the legends of both black and white Australians, that the kangaroos ate the flesh of the humans they killed – but considering how widespread this story was, it is no accident that this area was a border between the territories of the Woiwurrung and Boon wurrung peoples (who occupied the Yarra and Maribyrnong valleys and the coasts of the Mornington Peninsula respectively) – neither tribe wanted to risk losing the warriors it would take to clear out the kangaroos.

In fact, the modern name of the area is an anglicised version of two words from the Woiwurrung language: barruk, meaning kangaroo and balirt, meaning hard or difficult. As is not uncommon in the history of Melbourne, indigenous occupants of the area attempting to warn clueless white colonists about the dangers around them were often assumed to be telling them the name of the area. A warning against dangerous roos sounded to British ears like the name of their Prince Consort and a garden: balirt barruk, became Albert Park, and the Boon wurrung were driven ever further south along the bay to more remote reservations as the land in the areas they occupied became more valuable to whitefella eyes.

The subsequent history of the area involves the extensive culling of the area’s kangaroos, who were entirely wiped out during the 1860s (although Arthur Middleton made sure to capture two breeding pairs for his zoo) and the gradual drainage of the area to create upmarket dwellings for Melbourne’s well-to-do citizens. Its history is still made manifest each year by the annual cull of plant and animal life in the area that takes place under the name of the Australian Grand Prix.

Suburbs near Albert Park:

Port Melbourne South Melbourne South Melbourne South Melbourne MELBOURNE
Port Melbourne Albert Park South Melbourne Albert Park MELBOURNE
Port Phillip Bay Albert Park Albert Park Albert Park MELBOURNE
Port Phillip Bay Middle Park Albert Park Albert Park MELBOURNE
Port Phillip Bay St Kilda West St Kilda St Kilda MELBOURNE
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