Song site 8 – Nerm

Access this song’s Word Sheet

Access this song’s Sheet Music

Listen to the recording and see the lyrics

Where are we?

Picnic area behind Elwood Sailing Club

What are we looking at?

We are in a quiet part of the foreshore reserve behind Elwood Beach. This area is being revegetated with native plants, including Banksia, Correa, Melaleuca, and grasses. It gives us a taste of the rich diversity and abundance of native vegetation that fringed the dunes and waterways around Port Phillip Bay, prior to European settlement in the 1830s. If you explore the bushy foreshore area between here and Song-Site 9 (Elwood Pier), you will hear and see plenty of birds, including busy Superb Fairy-Wrens, and loudly-clacking Wattle Birds. In the warmer months, lizards scurry by…

Take a moment to think about the hundreds of generations of First Nations people who lived around these shores. The sea, coastal woodlands, creek, and wetlands provided bountiful food and resources: fish, shellfish, eels; plants and trees for food, medicines and shelter; waterbirds and their eggs… it was a paradise.   

Since European settlement in the 19th Century, the Elwood foreshore has been a place of recreation for locals and visitors, with buildings gradually added to house the life-saving club, anglers club, sea scouts, and the sailing club we can see here.

But 200 years is the blink of an eye compared to the tens of thousands of years First Nations people lived here, cared for Country, listened to the Wattle Birds, danced, sang…

What song are we singing here?

Here we sing Nerm, by Jeannie Marsh, Musical Director of Elwood Community Choir.

Here is what Jeannie says about the song:

During research for Elwood Singing Walking Trail in 2020, I learned that local First Nations people told early European settlers their name for Port Phillip Bay: Nerm. I have lived all my life in Melbourne, most of it around the bay, and yet I never knew this word.  

I also learnt that local First Nations people told early European settlers of an earlier time, when Port Phillip Bay/Nerm was a vast open plain, a “kangaroo ground” with excellent hunting. Then came a great flood, when waters broke through the Heads and inundated the plain, creating the bay that we see today. This is supported by 21st Century scientists. But these events occurred more than 7,000 years ago, around the end of the last Ice Age. This means that knowledge of an event in the ancient past was passed down through hundreds of generations. I had never heard about this, in all my years living beside the bay.  

When I learnt these two things, at the ripe old age of 61, I felt overwhelmed, with so many emotions. I decided that one thing we could do here in Elwood to acknowledge the extraordinary, ancient history and culture of local First Nations people, was to sing a song in honour of Nerm, and in honour of all those who cared for it so well, for so long.

To learn more about the locations, people, and history of Elwood, the songs, and the Elwood Singing Walking Trail project, please go to Further Information.

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