Footscray was named after an English town by settlers along the Maribyrnong River. Earlier inhabitants of the area are acknowledged in the name of the river. Maribyrnong is an Anglicised version of the Aboriginal term 'Mirring-gnay-bir-nong', which translates as 'I can hear a ringtail possum'. Before the arrival of Europeans, the area around Footscray was home to the Woimurrung and Boonwurrung tribes of the Kulin nation for over 40,000 years.

The first recorded visit by a European to the area was by Charles Grimes, Deputy Surveyor-General of New South Wales, in February 1803. Grimes and his small party are thought to have stepped ashore somewhere near the corner of Napier and Maribyrnong Streets. Thirty-six years later a settlement called Saltwater developed around the punt on the 'Saltwater River' - as the Maribyrnong River was then known - near its junction with the Yarra.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Footscray became the focus of Melbourne's industrial wealth, and the Maribyrnong River an industrial corridor. The river soon suffered severe environmental degradation. Dense housing developed to accommodate the factory workers.

Until the 1940s the population of the Footscray area was overwhelmingly Australian-born or of British origin. Following World War II waves of migrants and refugees arrived from Europe and the Americas, and by 1966 almost one-third of the population was overseas born, mostly from southern and central Europe.

By the middle of the twentieth century industrial decline led to substantial unemployment and the further economic depression of Footscray. By the 1980s the area was a significant location for the settlement of migrants and refugees, particularly from Indo-China, the Middle East and Central and South America. Recent arrivals include people from the Horn of Africa and the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

The City of Footscray ceased on 15 December 1994 when the City of Maribyrnong was created from the Cities of Footscray and Sunshine. The City of Maribyrnong is 31.2 sq km in area and has a population of 60,000, making it the smallest and most densely populated municipality in the region. Maribyrnong is today made up of the suburbs of Braybrook, Footscray, Kingsville, Maidstone, Maribyrnong, Seddon, Tottenham, West Footscray, and Yarraville.

Today, industrial areas on the river are being turned to advantage. The opportunity to enjoy a waterside location in close proximity to central Melbourne has served as a catalyst for the renewal of the surrounding areas. Residential properties are increasingly sought after, contributing to gentrification and increasing housing prices. The population of the City of Maribyrnong now comes from more than 100 different countries, speaking more than 65 languages. The four major countries of birth outside Australia are Vietnam, China, Italy and Greece. A significant number of new arrivals are from the Horn of Africa. 40% of residents were born outside Australia.

City of Maribrynong web site, accessed 21/10/2003.

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