History of the area

The La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary has a rich history, much of which is unseen. From the traditional owners to the early Europeans to Mont Park hospital era, the site has a story to tell. Once the university and current day Wildlife Sanctuary was establish, our story changed to one of ecological recovery.

Go for a self-guided walk and discover this unique space for yourself. We have recently embarked on an signage project to help interpret the history and biodiversity of the site; these will be added to overtime.

Do you have a story, photo or an anecdote to add to our history? Please email wildlife@latrobe.edu.au

If you want to learn more about Mont Park and the history of the local area, here are a couple of great resources:

The first people

1500sHugging treeSome of the oldest and largest River Red Gums in the Sanctuary germinated.
Pre-1800s

The area that the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary now occupies was once inhabited by the Kurnaj-berring tribe of the Wurundjeri clan. No one knows how long the area has been used by humans, but it is probably at least several thousand years. Unfortunately, much of the Aboriginal history of the area was lost very early after the arrival of Europeans.

 In this area, many large wetlands existed that were frequently utilised by the local Aborigines. Early Europeans in the area observed the rich nature of these wetlands, in particular the abundance of wetland birds, such as Brolgas and ducks. Even during prolonged droughts, wetlands provided a plentiful supply of edible plants, eels, freshwater mussels, fish, snakes and long-necked turtles. Evidence of the use by Aborigines of the area is observable in the scars on trees and fragments of stone tools.

1800s - Early European Settlement

1835Europeans arrived in Bundoora area (formerly the Parish of Keelbundora) and noted its 'parkland' appearance - well-spaced trees with an understory of grasses, herbs, and forbs.
1837Surveyors blazeArea surveyed by William Wedge-Drake, an assistant to Robert Hoddle, the chief surveyor of the Port Phillip District (there are several trees within the Sanctuary that still bare the original surveyors blaze marks).
1838The Bundoora area was divided into two sections of approximately 400 hectares and sold to land speculators and the wealthy, and within a few months was resold as much smaller farms of 100 to 300 acres. The farms were mostly used for sheep grazing and grain production.

1910-1964 - Mont Park era

1904The land was purchased from the grazier Malcolm Macleod in order to establish the Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital.
1910Inspector General for the Insane commenced the construction of farm cottages which was the start of an extensive area set aside for the treatment of psychiatric patients.
1912Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital opens (then named Mont Park Hospital for the Insane).
1914-18World War I
1915Recreational activities seen as an important tool in the rehabilitation of returned servicemen. Construction begins on a cricket pitch.
1918Tennis courts - changeroomsTennis courts built with support of funds donated by the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria. The tennis courts are still evident today by the remains of a red brick structure thought to be the change rooms which serviced the courts.
1930s-40sMont Park Psychiatric Hosptial became a leading hospital for the treatment of mental illnesses. A large portion of the patients were returned servicemen being treated for a range of nervous or mental health disorders. 
1930sAerial image 1951"Depression plantings" saw a vast number of exotic species being established. Those of heritage or habitat value remain. 
1932Soldiers/patients moved from Mont Park to the Bundoora Repatriation Hospital
1934Mont Park Hospital for the Insane renamed Mont Park Mental Hospital
1939-45World War II
1927Croquet lawn established in the hospital grounds. This involved scraping away the top soil and replacing with granitic sand. Many decades later, this low nutrient soil suppressed invasive species and meant that this was one of the first places of natural regeneration of native grasses, moss beds and orchids.
1950s-60sCricket oval used for community leaguesCricket oval used for community cricket and football leagues.
1951Larundel opened as a ward of Mont Park. Later became a separate hospital in 1953.
1964Victorian parliament agreed to create a new university for Victoria.

1965 - La Trobe University established

1965La Trobe University established as Victoria's third university.
1967 A meeting was held to discuss the future development on campus. From this meeting, the La Trobe University Conservation Society was born: a union of staff and students with a vision to create a haven for Australian wildlife. A small parcel of land (only 6.5 hectares) was set aside as a new conservation area, forming the La Trobe Wildlife Reserves.
1967The first 552 students commence at La Trobe University
1970sEastern Water SkinkEastern Water Skink introduced to ULA (Urban Land Authority) Gorge by Dr Peter Rawlinson. As of 2020, they had spread through out the Wildlife Sanctuary to Fozzies Wetland)
1970sSeed collection and onsite propagation of plants commenced to assist the habitat restoration efforts within the Sanctuary.
1971-731979 Small and Large LakesFarm machinery happening at the university; a 'demonstration' of some diggers created the Small and Main Lakes. Main Lake is now a great place to listen for frogs or for bird spotting.
1974First lizard lounge installed in the western extension
1977'Billabong system' established and functions as settling ponds to remove sediments, pollutants and nutrients, thus regulating the quality and rate at which run-off enters the lakes.
1978Gresswell Forest Nature Conservation Reserve comes under the management of the management of La Trobe University.
1980Betsy's Mobile - old carJoint operation with army recruits from Simpson Barracks to remove around 120 car bodies and parts from the Sanctuary and nearby Greswell Forest after it was used as a dumping ground by the local community. An example of these cars remains at the old cricket oval as a reminder of how far we have come.
1981Galaxiella Billabong contructed. This is now essential habitat for the threatened Dwarf Galaxia (Galaxiella pusila)
1987Twin Ponds constructed.
1988Goat monorail established as an ingenious method as invasive weed control and track construction. 
1989Official establishment of indigenous plant nursery to provide plants for wholesale orders
1990sRingtail possums on nesting boxNesting box design testing commenced. We now sell 14 different types of nesting boxes to individuals and land managers all over Australia.
1996Ironbarks Hut built by volunteers. Ironbarks Hut is now a rustic event space which can be hired for small gatherings.
Early 2000sLast goat on the monorail, Giselle, passes away.
2009Melbourne Wildlife Sanctuary renamed La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary.
2012Trust for Nature covenant established to protect the native vegetation.

2017 - La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary turns 50!

2017La Trobe University and La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary turn 50 years old.
2017Predator proof fence completed
2018Sampling discovered Galaxiella have spread throughout the Sanctuary to Fozzies Wetland.
2019EmuLast emu passes away with out pouring of grief by the community.
FutureHaving completed our predator proof fence and established and maintained fox free status, we are planning towards re-introductions of several species which would have once occurred in the area. Watch this space as our plans evolve!