Sadly we have no knowledge of what the original custodians, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, called the waterway that we now call Steele Creek. In the 40,000 years prior to European occupation the Wurundjeri managed the surrounding land, fished and collected estuarine shellfish and trapped eels in Maribyrnong River. We also know that the confluence where Steele creek joins the river was an important gathering site where they used silcrete rock to make tools.
The creek takes its name from an early squatter Michael Steel(e), not a local resident but a wealthy sheep owner who was born in Gloucestershire and lived in Hobart Town. Steele employed a manager in Melbourne and three shepherds to tend his flocks in the area through which the creek now flows. The earliest reference to the creek was Steel’s Chain of Ponds on a map of 1845. This naming was due to deep water holes which were fed by natural springs which occurred along the length of the creek. This permanent water was highly sought after by early squatters and later by farmers when the lands were divided and sold by government auction. In 1860 the first geological survey map marked the creek as Spring Creek.
The creek has undergone many changes in name over the past 200 years. Although it was first referenced as Steele’s Chain of Ponds, it was also has been known as Steele Creek, as well as Spring Creek, Rose Creek and sometimes by multiple names in the same period. For example, in a 1945 annotated aerial photograph it is shown as Steele Creek in the lower reaches but upstream where the two arms meet, the more westerly arm was marked as Rose Creek. In some maps of the 1950’s it was marked as Rose Creek.