Mont Albert

Despite its French-sounding name, Mont Albert has little to do the nation of France. The Albert part of its name derives from a misheard aboriginal word, balirt, which means kangaroo. For the hills of Mont Albert once abounded with these creatures. Several large mobs existed throughout the area, and it was claimed by early explorers that the roos exhibited several evidences of civilisation. Among other things, they appeared to have a spoken language (which some of the Kulin peoples in the area seemed to be able to speak to them in), they engaged in forms of play so organised that they could only be characterised as sports, and finally, they engaged in deliberate cultivation of favoured plants.

As the city grew up around them, somehow the kangaroos of Mont Albert were frequently overlooked, and the settlements of the European invaders seemed to – purely by coincidence – miss their territory. One local wag even suggested that the local representative of Parliament from that area should be one of the roos (it was argued that the roo probably had more respect for the rule of law than Peter Lalor, who was then a member of the Parliament). But this all changed forever in 1869.

It was in that year that a terrifying bushfire sprang up in the upper reaches of the Yarra and began to make its way downstream, burning out much of the settlement along its banks. Or so it was claimed – in fact, the fire seemed to reach only a few years inland along the course of the river, as if it was the waters of the Yarra itself that burned. But as the fire reached to what is now North Balwyn, the wind swung around, pushing the fire south and east.

The kangaroos of Mont Albert were ill-prepared for the speed with which the blaze approached, and most of them were killed trying to fight it or flee for it. Their efforts were successful, but the victory was a Pyrhic one. The fires were stopped along the Mont Albert ridge, but the majority of the kangaroos, and all of their cultivated areas, were destroyed in the stopping. The few survivors fled, although occasional rumours of a new colony of the animals living in the southern reaches of the Grampians, far to the west, have surfaced.

Suburbs near Doncaster:

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