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Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve

The transformation of the former Elsternwick Park golf course into a natural oasis will bring nature back into our urban area, providing refuge and tranquillity for both wildlife and visitors. The new wetlands and water bodies will improve the quality of water flowing into Port Phillip Bay and provide a diverse habitat, that along with new trees and vegetation, will encourage native wildlife back to the area. It will establish a biodiversity refuge for exploration, education, and enjoyment by the regional community.

Map of the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve

We're creating an extraordinary future for this magnificent reserve, establishing a biodiversity refuge for exploration, education, and enjoyment by our community. The ten-year Masterplan of works will realise the vision for the reserve.

Key elements include:

  • Gateway feature building
    • The Gateway will be the major symbolic entry into the Reserve, providing a threshold as visitors move from the busy urban Nepean Highway to the unique tranquillity of Elsternwick Nature Reserve. The Gateway will be a major meeting and gathering point, and in close proximity to various public transport options. From the Gateway, the two primary paths provide key access to the rest of the Reserve.
  • Chain of ponds
    • These expanses of open water - ponds, a large billabong and two soaks - mimic the natural cycle, receding in summer and filling again in spring and winter. Read more about the Chain of Ponds.
  • Expanded wetlands
    • Occupying over 40% of the site is a large expanse of wetlands providing tranquillity for users, critical habitat, and significant water quality improvements. Visitors can explore the varying ecologies that make up the wetlands, including ponds free of mosquito fish to allow frog spawning, permanent habitat for bird and fish species as well as migratory species. Ephemeral zones provide a changing landscape with the climate, mimicking natural processes. The wetlands also play an important role in water cleansing to significantly improve the water quality of Elster Creek before it is discharged into Port Phillip Bay.
  • Grassy woodlands
    • The Grassy Woodland is a terrestrial habitat dominated by a Eucalyptus  canopy over an open grasslands understorey with clustered shrubs. These woodlands provide important foraging, nesting, breeding, and roosting habitat for a wide range of woodland birds as well as insects, butterflies, moths and small reptiles. This habitat occupies approximately 25% of the terrestrial environment and has been located along the eastern portion of the Reserve, that is outside of the flood footprint.
  • Wildflower Meadow
    • Bayside City Council in collaboration with Melbourne University’s School of Design and School of Ecosystem Sciences are designing and planting the grassy wildflower meadows adjacent to the Community Edge facility precinct. The Wildflower Meadow incorporates more than 18 wildflower and 20 indigenous grassland species. The design concept creates a network of meandering paths, welcoming visitors to explore and discover the unique attributes of the various species. Seasonal changes will contrast the colours of the wildflower community, and visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the importance and connection of grasslands with biodiversity.

                 To achieve the best outcome, the wildflower meadow is being delivered in several stages:

Step 1: Sourcing indigenous wildflower and grass seed in collaboration with the Yalukit Willam Nature Association Seed Production Area.

Step 2: Laboratory germination testing of all species undertaken by the University of Melbourne and Phase 1 concept design.

Step 3: Final landscape design.

Step 4: Construction and ground preparation works.

Step 4: Seed sowing of summer grasses and wildflowers.

Step 5: Phase 2 concept design. Delivery Autumn 2024

  • Indigenous gathering places
    • Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve will be a story of repair, engagement, and education. The Reserve will seek to repair and enhance ecologies, habitat, and Indigenous connection; to engage communities with each other, with ecologies and with traditional owner stories; and, to educate visitors to understand and appreciate ecologies, cultural values and Traditional Owners past, present and future.
  • The Meeting Place
    • The Meeting Place is a quiet, contemplative area where people can meet, learn, and tell stories. As an amphitheatre leading down to the wetlands, the space provides a cool, tranquil green environment, enclosed by mature trees that look out over the wetlands. Located centrally in the Reserve, the space is removed from the urban sounds and replaced with the sounds of running water, birds singing and frogs calling. An ideal place for a ‘bush’ classroom
  • The Community Edge facilities
    • The Community Edge is located on the edge of the ‘wilds’ and includes the sheltered area and barbecue facilities, as well as the southern amenities block.

View the full report to find out what's included in the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve Masterplan.

Spring 2023

  • Construction commences on the Community Edge facilities (toilets, sheltered, covered area, and BBQs).
  • Planting of the Wildflower Meadows commences around the Community Edge shelter. Extensive grassy woodland communities will branch out from this centrepiece.

Summer 2023/24

  • Scheduled completion of the Chain of Ponds project.
  • Planting of the Wildflower Meadow adjacent to the Grassy Woodland commences.

Autumn 2024

  • Scheduled completion of the Community Edge facilities.
  • Installation of the Grassy Woodlands adjacent wildflower meadow commences.
  • Construction commences on the Wetlands – south project.

Winter 2024

  • Scheduled completion for the planting of the Wildflower Meadows and Grassy Woodlands.

Summer 2024/25

  • Scheduled completion of the Wetlands – south project.
  • Construction commences on the Wetlands – north project.

Spring 2025

  • Scheduled completion of the Wetlands – north project.
  • Construction commences on the Gateway Building.

Spring 2026

  • Scheduled completion of the Gateway Building.


Find out about the community engagement process to develop the Masterplan by visiting our Have Your Say consultation page.

In September 2022, we established a committee to guide future planning for Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve.

Eight community representatives have been selected to help support the operation, management and guide the future development of the Reserve, formerly known as the Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve. The Committee will be chaired by Councillor Alex del Porto and Councillor Hana El Mouallem will join as Council’s representative.

Environmental experts Dr Tricia Wevill and Patrick Honan will join the committee along with residents Stephen le Page, Sam Murray, Stephanie Convery and Alicia Darvall. Committee members representing relevant community groups include Alison Soutar from the Elsternwick Park Association and April Seymore on behalf of the Port Phillip EcoCentre.

The group will be able to make suggestions about how Council maintains operational areas of the Reserve in line with Bayside’s Community Vision, Council budgets and community expectations.


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Your details

Echoing the contours of natural ecology and Connection to Country, the new design for the gateway building at Yalukit Nature Reserve by Canvas Projects is starting to take shape.

Bayside City Council awarded the lead design consultant contract for the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve gateway building to Canvas Projects at the December 2023 meeting.

After extensive community engagement to plan the reserve’s future, the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve Masterplan incorporates the gateway building, located at the reserve’s northeast corner. At the September 2020 meeting, Councillors supported a design competition to award the Head Consultant contract and expressions of interest opened in July 2023. Council received 12 submissions and four consultant teams were shortlisted to submit a design response as part of a formal tender.

Canvas Projects’ design responded to two key themes of the masterplan; ecology and connection. The distinct “three-pebbles” design integrates into the surrounding flora and fauna and includes public amenities, multi-purpose community and exhibition spaces, a café, and a viewing deck. The design provides a welcoming and engaging place for visitors, and focuses on themes of learning, engagement, and repair to connect community to country.

Council will now work with Canvas Projects and other key stakeholders to refine the building design, before taking the concept design out for community consultation throughout 2024.

Canvas Projects is currently redeveloping Hobsons Bay City Council’s Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club. The design team for the gateway building incorporates Landscape Architects, Realm Studios; Structural and Civil Engineers, Argall Pty Ltd, and Environmentally Sustainable Design Engineers, Lucid Consulting.

Construction on the gateway building is scheduled to commence in 2025, with planning and detailed design commencing in 2024.

Important flooding models and wetland concept designs are currently being worked through with Melbourne Water, the landscape design team and engineers to deliver varying aspects of the Masterplan

Over the next coming months, access to some areas within the south may be limited, as we look to transition this space to the new wetland.

On Monday, 21 August, works are commencing on the Community Edge precinct, located along New Street, between Rusden and Huntley Streets. Incorporated in the Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve Masterplan, the project will be ongoing for up to 4 months, weather permitting.

The precinct sits adjacent to “Wildflower Meadow” and will provide a comfortable place for visitors to relax and enjoy the Wildflower Meadow.

Map of the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve

Facilities at the Community Edge include:

  • A covered shelter
  • BBQ and picnic facilities
  • Toilet amenities.

What to expect during works

  • Works are being undertaken between normal business hours, Monday - Friday
  • The works site is within the existing Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve fencing
  • There will be no impact on traffic movement and parking
  • Noise and dust levels will comply with reasonable residential construction

More information

Please contact Rob Egerton, Project Landscape Architect on 03 9599 4357, or email, if you have any questions or would like to discuss further.

Construction and landscaping of the Chain of Ponds is complete.

Works commenced in July 2020 and included excavation of the ponds and the shaping of the general surrounding landscape, landscaping and construction of the new pathways and planting.  

Approximately 30,000 new plants and trees will be planted as the reserve matures. 

Find out more about the Chain of Ponds.

Council is seeking financial and technical support from the Victorian and Australian Governments to transform the former golf course site into a natural oasis with significant benefits for community recreation and enjoyment, flood management, water quality and biodiversity.

The former Australian Government (Morrison) contributed $6 million to the implementation of the Masterplan in January 2022. The new Australian Government (Albanese) pledged a further $10 million to implement the Masterplan and Elster Creek. 

Find out more about Council's advocacy program.

We anticipate completing the final element of the project, the Gateway Building, in November 2026. Parts of the Reserve are currently open for public use. Planting and construction areas are fenced with no public access. We will open more of the reserve in stages as projects within the Masterplan are completed.

Education and engagement are strong elements of the masterplan, with a vision for the reserve as a regional destination that fosters community learning and engagement with nature. It is intended that the reserve will be a site of interpretative and experiential learning for all ages, with strong programming focusing on Caring for Country, First Nations and environmental knowledge.

Find out about the community engagement process to develop the Masterplan by visiting our Have Your Say consultation page.

Read the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve Masterplan.

The plant species and their communities were selected through the Elsternwick Park Habitat and Flora Strategy, the Victorian Government’s NatureKit Portal, and through expert industry recommendations including Melbourne University, Bayside City Council, and specialist consultants. The plants have been selected to restore the former Elsternwick golf course to its original natural state, with the vision of a self-supporting ecosystem for a future conservation reserve.

Professor of Urban Horticulture and Natural Resource, Nick Williams, has undertaken several urban ecology projects for the City of Melbourne, one of note being wildflower seeding in Gatehouse Street, Parkville. The project involved growing wildflowers at the University of Melbourne and harvesting their seed for sowing.

Bayside City Council engaged Nick Williams as an industry expert to oversee the same process at the Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve, including a best practice guide for the Yalukit Association to use for their plant lab.

The landscape design was initiated into the project through a landscape architect student working as a Yalukit Willam Association volunteer. The design demonstrates the amalgamation of design into urban ecology, and biodiversity as a design principal.

Currently there is a significant inhabitant of both terrestrial and aquatic bird species. The Elster Creek and Chain of Ponds has provided habitat for a healthy population of both waterfowl and wading birds, including rare visitors such as: Freckled Ducks, Pink Eared Ducks, Egrets, Nankeen Night Herons, and rare visitation of Magpie Geese.

There have also been some exciting sightings of rare passerine species such as Gang Gangs (listed as endangered), Buttonquail, Rails and Crakes.

The Reserve will be fully fenced with dedicated entrance gates to control access and facilitate movement through the Reserve.

There will be no access to the Reserve between dusk and dawn. This will help to reduce the risk of predation for nocturnal species. There is no existing lighting, and no recommendation to introduce lighting due to the wildlife inhabiting the area.

At the moment yes, however the park is a strictly dog on-leash area. The reserve is a regionally significant, environmentally focused open space with precious resident and visitor wildlife and therefore Council will consider the likely impact of dogs on the ability to achieve these goals as part of the master planning process. This will mean dogs will continue to be required to be on a leash at all times. That said, Elsternwick Park South has approximately 13 hectares of dog off-leash space where dog owners can walk their pets.

View our website to find places to walk your dog in Bayside

Council is aware of reports of foxes in Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve. Council’s contractor, CityWide visits the Reserve regularly and has found no evidence of foxes or dens. This does not mean that foxes are not running through the Reserve at night in search of food as foxes are common in urban areas, including Bayside.

Council manages the control of foxes on public land where practicable. Council is limited in what they can do to control foxes as the Reserve is in an urban area. We cannot bait, shoot or trap foxes in case dogs or other animals are affected. Council can potentially fumigate dens in breeding season which takes place in Spring.

Council will continue to investigate all formal reports of fox sightings on public land.

Once finalised, the Masterplan for Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve will define the potential future function and occupation of the Former Elsternwick Golf Club House and any other possible commercial opportunities. Council is not discussing the long term use of the existing building with any third parties until consultation is complete and a resolution has been reached.

For more information about this project, please contact:

Jarrod Fleming, Yalukit Willam Nature Reserve Project Lead


Phone: 03 9599 4844