Yarra Canoe

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The twine that ties together each end of the canoe is machine-made. It possibly replaces earlier hand-made rope. Clay was often used to plug the ends of the canoe.
Image: Jon Augier (photographer)
Source: Museum Victoria

This is the only remaining 19th-century Aboriginal canoe from the Melbourne region.

Scottish immigrant John Buchan collected the canoe in the 1850s from Aboriginal people camping near his home overlooking the Yarra River at Studley Park, 5 km east of central Melbourne. An early estate agent in Kew, Buchan stored the canoe at his home, Finhaven, where it remained until the house was demolished in 1941.

The river flats and lagoons of the Yarra River were favoured places for the Woi wurrung people, providing a plentiful supply of fish, eels and birds’ eggs. The nearby junction of the Yarra River and Merri Creek was an important camping and meeting place - it is now overshadowed by the Eastern Freeway.

The canoe has been made from the bark of Mountain Ash, which grew in the ranges near Melbourne. This suggests that the Woi wurrung steered the canoe 50 or more kilometres down the Yarra River. Charcoal marks on the underside suggest that the bark was heated to help shape it.