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March 26 @ 8:45 am - 12:45 pm


Experience the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee, and discover the historical and environmental importance of this fascinating site. The Western Treatment Plant was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 2021, recognising its historical, archaeological and technical significance. The historic Western Treatment Plant in Werribee is a world leader in environmentally-friendly sewage treatment, and one of Victoria’s most unlikely hidden treasures.

Roughly the size of Phillip Island (covering an area roughly from Avalon Airport to Werribee Open Zoo), the vast site is home to more than just sewage treatment facilities – doubling as a working farm and internationally-recognised bird habitat. Here, agriculture and biodiversity meet resource recovery, education and ecotourism, supporting Melbourne’s renowned liveability.

The Western Treatment Plant’s variety of natural habitats provide a refuge for wildlife, including some of the world’s rarest bird and frog species – such as the critically-endangered orange-bellied parrot and growling grass frog. In 1983, the site was declared an internationally-significant wetland for waterfowl under the Ramsar Convention. More than 300 bird species have been recorded at the plant, attracted to the water and food in its permanent wetlands, making it one of Australia’s best places for birdwatching.

The Wadawurrung People lived on the land for thousands of years, making it a place of spiritual importance. The plant was also key to Melbourne’s early development – established in the early 1890s to combat the spread of disease, as open sewers emptied into rivers and bays.

Originally known as the Werribee Sewage Farm, the site included the township of Cocoroc (meaning ‘frog’), which housed sewage farm workers until the 1970s. Parts of it are still standing today, and now house our operations, administration and education facilities.


Following the success of our 2023 sold-out tour of Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant we have organised a 2nd tour in March 2024. We will have a bigger and more comfortable bus this time.

This is a really exciting opportunity.

We will have two brilliant guides for the day – firstly, whilst we drive from the RHSV to Cocoroc, historian Tony Dingle who has researched and written extensively about Melbourne’s water and sewerage will explain the historical importance of this treatment plant and then we’ll pick up a guide at the Treatment Plant to give us the contemporary information.

Tony Dingle teaches Economic History at Monash University. He has researched and published extensively in Australian and British history and his books include Settling, volume 2 of The Victorians (1984); Aboriginal Economy: Patterns of Experience (1988); and Vital Connections: Melbourne and its Board of Works (1991).

Tuesday 26th of March, 2024

8:30am – 9am      Gather at RHSV, 239 A’Beckett Street, Melbourne. Coffee/tea and pastries served. 

9am                      Bus departs for Cocoroc and the Western Treatment Plant with Tony Dingle as our on-board historian

10am                    Arrive Cocoroc and pick up treatment plant guide

12:00noon              Tour finishes and we depart Cocoroc arriving …         

12:45pm                back at the RHSV

Important information

The Western Treatment Plant is a working sewage treatment plant. Before and during the treatment process, sewage contains many micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Visitors to tour sites are asked to strictly follow these safety rules while on-site:
• Wear long pants and a long sleeved top (Not allowed: shorts, skirts, open-toed shoes, high heels or sandals).
• Wear flat sole, enclosed shoes at all times – sandals and thongs are not permitted on-site.
• While on tour, stay with your tour guide at all times.
• Refrain from climbing on and/or over railings.
• Refrain from touching any machinery or equipment.
• Refrain from running.

It is vital that all visitors:
• Avoid contact with sewage and sewage related products, while on-site.
• Wash your hands before leaving the plant or eating.
• Refrain from eating or drinking during the tour.
• Wash any contaminated clothing separate to your normal washing.
• Ensure that any open wounds are covered.
• Report any minor cuts or abrasions that occur while onsite to Melbourne Water.


Image Captions

  1. Aerobic lagoons
  2. Heritage-listed water tank at the historic worker township of Cocoroc

(both photos courtesy of Margaret Donnan from our 2023 tour)



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March 26
8:45 am - 12:45 pm
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
239 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia
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9326 9288