Anne Fairbairn.

It was while out walking her dogs that Anne Fairbairn first came across two places in Geelong that have become close to her heart.

A long time ago, Anne liked to walk her dogs just north of the Barwon River and south of the Breakwater industrial estate. The area has been fenced off for many years though, due to safety concerns about the ageing Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct, which runs across the floodplain.

Porronggitj Karrong, with the aqueduct in the foreground.

“When I heard last year that Wadawurrung would guide the rehabilitation of the land, I thought I’d love to be involved in learning about the environment, Wadawurrung culture, and traditional practices such as cultural burns,” Anne explains.

(Cultural burns are low intensity or ‘cool’ burns used by First Nations people to improve the health of Country and its people.)

So when she had a chance to join the Community Reference Group for the Porronggitj Karrong and Aqueduct project, she jumped at it.

Porronggitj Karrong means ‘place of the Brolga’ in Wadawurrung language, and the project is being led by Barwon Water and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.

“I talk to friends about the project, and there is so much interest and so many questions. I think what has been approved by Heritage Victoria in relation to the aqueduct is a wonderful compromise, because most of the aqueduct will remain and be on display. Taking down four spans will allow river access to safely open up for the first time in decades.”

“There is huge interest in learning from Wadawurrung about caring for Country and the cultural importance of the Barwon River. Porronggitj Karrong will be a chance for the community to do that.”

It was another regular dog-walking spot that led Anne to be involved in a very different project.

Wandering through Geelong Eastern Cemetery, Anne noticed the beautiful grounds and hoped to encourage more people to come and take a look. This led to Anne becoming a trust member for Geelong Cemeteries Trust, which manages 21 cemeteries across the region.

“It is a fascinating industry, just so different. I’ve learned so much.”

Anne Fairbairn with her dog at Geelong’s Eastern Cemetery.

“As trustees we want cemeteries to be a place you would like to visit and remember loved ones. Each cemetery has its own personality, and we want to keep that, not apply a cookie cutter approach.”

And for those interested in local history, Anne recommends the History Alive tours which are held during the warmer months at Geelong’s Eastern, Western, and Queenscliff Cemeteries.

“The tours are a great way for community to wander through and learn about local history. Actors play famous and interesting people, such as philanthropist Eliza Austin, inventor James Harrison, and early settler Caroline Newcomb.”

Where will Anne take her dogs walking next, we wonder?

Article submitted by Barwon Water.