In 2021 the Werribee River Association marked 40 years as an active voice for the health of the Werribee River and its catchment waterways. It all began in 1981 when a group of community members spoke against the degradation of the Werribee River. Their legacy continues to grow today.  

    Forty years of care is brief compared to that of Traditional Owners, including the Bunurong and Wadawurrung Peoples who have a shared history of the Werribee River – but it is a long time for a volunteer organisation. It equates to countless meetings and committee changes, alongside advances in technology, urbanisation, the conservation movement, and waterways policy.

    Despite these changes, the work of the Werribee River Association remains consistent: speaking up for rivers, creeks and wetlands and the animals that inhabit them (including the iconic platypus), regenerating riverine parklands, and improving access and amenities along waterways.

    To meet present and future challenges, the Werribee River Association took steps to become a professional agency. Over the past five years it developed a small team of paid staff who work with hundreds of community volunteers across Landcare, litter clean-ups, citizen science, education and nature-based experiences, and advocacy. 

    The Association celebrated its 40th year milestone by hosting a cultural education session with a Wadawurrung Traditional Owner and guest speakers, as well as the launch of a history book, Werribee River Association 40 Years of Waterways Protection 1981–2021

    The book details concerns about the Werribee River, such as poor drainage, sedimentation, pollution, indiscriminate tree-cutting, overgrowth of reeds and lack of monitoring. These issues are charted through an activist lens and the growth of the Werribee River Association. 

    The longevity of the Werribee River Association is without doubt a result of committed and passionate local community champions such as John Forrester. Since 1993, John has led the development and character of the Association. His involvement in waterways reform now spans almost 30 years – a significant and ongoing impact on the Werribee River catchment through direct action, advocacy and education. 

    The Association was particularly instrumental in advocating for and establishing a water manager for the Werribee River. Melbourne Water holds this role, which came into effect in 2005. It remains a vital partner for the Association.

    The Werribee River Association 40 Years of Waterways Protection 1981–2021 has been researched and written by former Chairperson and current Manager of the Association, Lisa Field, with editorial support by John Forrester, Werribee Riverkeeper, and former committee member and local historian Heather Noble.

    The digital book has been kindly supported by the Victorian Government, and the launch and limited printed copies have been supported by Wyndham City and Victoria University. 

    To obtain a digital copy, please contact Lisa Field on

    The Association welcomes individuals, groups and businesses to get involved – to connect to and protect the Werribee River and its catchment waterways. For more details

    Dumped cars in Werribee River, at Presidents Park, 1994
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