About the region

View of the mountains and vines in the Valley

Demographic profile

Yarra Ranges is home to over 150,000 people and covers approximately 2,500km². The municipality stretches from the densely populated outer suburbs into the foothills, agricultural valleys and forested areas of the Great Dividing Ranges.

Around 70% of our population lives in urban areas, which represent only 3% of the Yarra Ranges landmass.

View detailed demographic profile

Additional information about our community profiles and population can be found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

Our environment

Yarra Ranges has long been recognised for its natural beauty and diverse habitats. The combination of national parks, state forests, private gardens, and its proximity to Melbourne combine to make the area unique.

Some of Victoria's most environmentally important areas are located in the Yarra Ranges. The mountainous landscapes and Yarra Valley contain significant native vegetation and provides an important habitat for wildlife.

Economic profile

We have a diverse economy of around 13,500 businesses, employing more than 35,000 people.

A detailed overview of our economic profile is available online.

View our economic profile

The most valuable industry in Yarra Ranges is manufacturing. Manufacturing yields $3 billion in regional output.

Other key industries in the region include:

  • agriculture
  • tourism
  • construction
  • property and business services
  • retail trade

Yarra Ranges has attracted local and international recognition for its fine food and wine.

Over 4.5 million tourists visit the wineries and gardens of the Yarra Ranges each year.

Our history

For at least 35,000 years, the Wurundjeri people have been the traditional custodians of the land within Yarra Ranges and beyond.

Evidence of their rich cultural heritage and deep spiritual connection to this country can be found throughout the municipality.

This is particularly evident at significant sites such as Coranderrk, which ran from 1863 before being formally closed by the government of the time in 1924.

The Yarra Ranges continues to have a strong connection to Indigenous culture and history, through the names towns and areas (such as the Wirrup Yaluk creek in Healesville) through the work of its passionate Wurundjeri community and community groups.

European settlers established themselves in Yarra Ranges from the 1830s, pursuing gold along the rivers and carving out productive agricultural lands.

As a result of this, towns such as Healesville were established as stopping points on the route to the goldfields.

The advent of the railway led to the formation of some of the Yarra Ranges’ towns, many of which still contain historically significant aspects and remnants of the former railway lines – such as the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail. 

The Yarra Ranges Shire Council was created by the Order of the Governor in Council on Thursday 15th December 1994, and involved the amalgamation of the former Healesville, Lillydale, Sherbrooke and Upper Yarra.

Ward history

Billanook Ward

Covering Mt Evelyn and Lilydale, Billanook ward is a reminder of the name given to the region by the Indigenous Wurrundjeri people.

The explorer, Robert Hoddle, used the name Billanook as early 1838 to describe the country he discovered east of Melbourne as he was searching for the headwaters of the Yarra River. Hoddle and his party came to the Yarra Valley from the north, reaching the Yarra Glen area from Kangaroo Ground and Christmas Hills.

Chandler Ward

Covering Silvan, Kalorama, Seville, Wandin, Monbulk and Macclesfield, Chandler ward lies in the south of the Yarra Ranges. It is the third largest ward in terms of land area. It was named after a prominent pioneering family who played a significant role in local government. Settled in the mid to late 1800's, the area was know for its horticultural industry, particularly berries.

With its beautiful scenery and local produce Chandler Ward is certainly a wonderful part of the Yarra Ranges.

Chirnside Ward

Chirnside Ward covers the areas of Chirnside Park and part of Mooroolbark and is the centre of the earliest European settlement in the northern part of the Yarra Ranges - and some of the most recent settlement.
The ward has been marked by successive waves of settlement since the late 1800's with James Gardiner being the first European settler in the area. James built a sheep and cattle station between Brushy and Olinda creeks.

In 1921 George Chirnside, once the owner of Werribee Mansion, purchased the station, now Mooroolbark Park, and resettled livestock and furniture to his new home.

A further wave of settlement occurred after World War II when migration pushed growth higher and although a long way from the city, land was cheap and people recognised the area's natural beauty.


Lyster Ward

Lyster Ward covers the areas of Sherbrooke, Kallista, The Patch, Belgrave, Selby, Menzies Creek, Narre Warren East, Lysterfield and Belgrave Heights.  Follow Puffing Billy's plume of steam as it winds its way around the hills and you'll find yourself in the heart of the Lyster Ward.

Lyster Ward was named after William Saurin Lyster, an early selector who established a dairy farm in the area in 1867.

Like many of the Yarra Ranges' early European settlers, William Saurin Lyster was a man with a strong connection to the arts and was a famous impresario who is claimed to have been the first to introduce opera into Australia when he brought an opera company to Melbourne in 1869.

The tranquillity offered by the forested areas of the Dandenongs continues to attract people seeking some peace from the city either to settle as the famous Australian artist Tom Roberts did in the 1920's, or to visit one of the many popular picnic areas.


Melba Ward

Melba Ward covers areas of Lilydale and Mooroolbark and owes its name to the great Australian opera diva Dame Nellie Melba, who as a child lived with her family in their Lilydale country home.

As a young married woman Helen Porter Armstrong (nee Mitchell), Dame Nellie Melba, travelled to Europe in pursuit of an operatic career and it was there, when she first achieved success in the opera house of Europe, that she first took the name of Melba (a condensed version of Melbourne) honouring her Australian birth place.

David Mitchell, Dame Nellie Melba's father, came to the Yarra Ranges in the 1870's when he purchased land in the Cave Hill Estate of Lilydale establishing the David Mitchell Quarry, which still operates today.

In the earliest years of European settlement the ward was also home to a significant pastoral industry with one of the biggest grazing leases established at Brushy Creek in Mooroolbark by John Gardiner and extending as far as the Olinda creek in Lilydale.

Now over 120 years since a young girl first turned her thoughts to gracing the opera stages of European Melba Ward is embracing its role as gateway centre to the Yarra Valley, servicing a burgeoning food and wine industry.

O'Shannassy Ward

O'Shannassy Ward covers areas of Woori Yallock, Launching Place, Don Valley, Millgrove, Hoddles Creek, Gladysdale, Powelltown, Yarra Junction, Wesburn, Warburton, McMahons Creek, Reefton, Yellingbo, Gilderoy, Three Bridges and St Clair.

O'Shannassy is the largest of the Yarra Ranges nine wards covering more than 1566 square kilometres. Around 80% of the ward is made up of state forest.

The ward name O'Shannassy reflects the local features -  the O'Shannassy Aqueduct and pipeline, which has been an important part of Melbourne's water system, supplying water via the Silvan Reservoir. Melbourne's piped water supply commenced operation in 1857, at which time Sir John O'Shannassy was the Premier of Victoria.

Another of the areas vital asset was timber. With the opening of a railway line from Lilydale to Warburton in 1901 the newly emerging timber trade soared. Sawmills were established in Powelltown, Britannia Creek and the Little Yarra region.

Today O'Shannassy offers locals and tourists a host of activities including the Warburton Trail, a multi-use track for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, stretching more than 38 kilometres from Lilydale to Warburton along the former railway line.

Ryrie Ward

Ryrie Ward covers Healesville, Coldstream, Gruyere, Yering, Yarra Glen, Steels Creek, Badger Creek, Dixons Creek and Chum Creek.

In 1838 three Scottish brothers, Donald, William and Alexander Ryrie, travelled with James Graham from Manaro in New South Wales, bringing with them stock to set up their first homestead at Yering in the Yarra Valley.

The brothers planted vegetables and fruit trees and between them held many acres of land under squatters license for grazing cattle. It was here in Yering William Ryrie planted the first vineyard in the Lilydale district. Little did he know these vines would one day bring fame to the Yarra Valley. So, it's no surprise more than 150 years later a council ward has been named after them.

Ryrie has a rich indigenous history, with a strong and vibrant Aboriginal community. The township of Healesville was home to Corranderk, an Aboriginal station established for a numerous tribes , providing them with food and shelter in return for working on the land.

This area is now known as Correnderk Bushland and adjoins the popular Healesville Sanctuary. Today Healesville is recognised as part of the land belonging to the traditional Wurrundjeri tribe, and it is still home to many Aboriginal descendants.

Ryrie Ward is also a great contributor to Melbourne's Water supply. In 1901 a weir was constructed on the Badger creek, this now feeds the Corranderk aqueduct, and joins the O'Shannassy aqueduct , both of which run into the Silvan Reservoir. Maroondah dam is also another of Ryrie's popular tourist destination and is one of Melbourne's major water supplies.


Streeton Ward

Streeton Ward covers Mt Dandenong, Montrose South, Olinda, Sassafras, Tremont, Ferny Creek, Tecoma and Upwey.

The many townships that make up Streeton Ward have long been an inspiration for many notable artists. The beauty and serenity have provided a peaceful environment for painters to create beautiful landscapes, now treasured works art among the collectors.

Sir Arthur Streeton was one such painter who frequented the region to create his masterpieces, eventually settling at his home, Long Acres,  in Olinda in 1923. It is because of this the Ward was named after him.

Rich in flora and fauna, Streeton Ward's bushland has had its fair share of devastation, with raging bushfires including Ash Wednesday in 1983 and the Ferny Creek Fire in 1997, destroying wildlife, houses and claiming lives.

Walling Ward

Covering Kilsyth, Mooroolbark and Montrose Walling Ward was named after acclaimed landscape designer Edna Walling. Born in England in 1896, Edna Walling grew up in the small village of Bickleigh in Devon and at the age 17 moved to Melbourne, where she eventually became one of the country's most respected landscape designers in an era when professional women were few and far between.

The natural arrangement of rocks and plants in a cottage garden settings became her trademark and while at first her work was dominated by English plants, her love of Australian landscape led to her dominant use of native species.

She developed a village of cottages in Mooroolbark known as Bickleigh Vale and now, almost 30 years after her death, Edna Wallling's legacy remains in Bickleigh Vale and Walling Ward.

Walling may be one of the smallest wards in the Yarra Ranges but it certainly boasts tremendous variety for its residents.