History of Wonga Wetlands

Indigenous heritage

Before European settlement the original inhabitants and traditional owners of the Murray River area near Albury and Wodonga were the Wiradjuri, Wavereoo and Dhudhuroa people. The river was considered the giver of life, not a divider of communities.

These people moved up and down the river, using bark canoes cut from the majestic red river gums. The river, billabongs and wetlands were a rich and valuable food source. There were fish, mussels, turtles, crayfish, snails and birds and other animals to eat, and mussel shells to use as knives, spoons and scrapers

In recognition of the Wiradjuri people and the assistance they provided in establishing the Wonga Wetlands, particularly the construction of the replica Indigenous campsite (see Wiradjuri Campsite), Council named them ‘Wonga’, which is Wiradjuri for the Little Black Cormorant – still one of the most abundant bird species in this area.

Other Wiradjuri words include:

  • gunyuck - Black Swan
  • bringen - Red Kangaroo
  • munjar - Murray Cod
  • coleen - water  
  • wangarang - Turtle  
  • wargan - Crow
  • womboyne - Grey Kangaroo

European settlement

In the 1830s, European settlers began to establish homesteads in the area. The previous owner of the Wonga Wetlands site, Mrs Margaret Pearce, recalls:

“In June 1901 my Grandparents, Jacob and Pauline Lobbe purchased 'Hillview', later renamed 'Riverdale'. Possibly the name changed following the 1917 flood. The house is said to have been erected in the 1880's.

I can remember watching in awe my Grandfather working in the blacksmiths shed at the back of the lock-up shed. He had a portable saw mill and cut the slabs which formed the walls of the shed in which he did his blacksmithing. He also cut all the post and rails which formed the boundary fencing around ‘Riverdale’.

A platypus family used to live in Bagnall’s Range Lagoon below the large steel tank at the pump house. Swans, Pelicans, Swamp Hens, Shags and of course hundreds of ducks as well as small birds in the bulrushes were to be seen. Of course one cannot forget the Tiger and Black snakes which were very plentiful.

The original Murray River flowed beside Waterview Road, until the present creek eroded to such an extent that the River changed its course (note the NSW/Victoria state border still follows the original river course).

Prior to the construction of Hume Dam (the late-1920s/early-1930s) it was not unusual to have floods annually, depending on winter and spring rainfall. With the construction of Dartmouth Dam (in the late-1970s), floods became rarer. However, we then had to suffer high water levels throughout summer/autumn because of the irrigation flows.”