Victoria's Secret Shame
The government is planning on removing 3000 trees over a 12km stretch of sacred land outside Ararat. Why? To cut just three minutes off existing highway travel time.
The plan to build a freeway bypass between Ararat and Buangor will destroy culturally significant land belonging to the Djab Wurrung people, disrupting song lines and tearing out sacred trees. Among these stands an 800-year-old tree that has seen more than 50 generations born inside its hollow and a 350-year-old directions tree.
On the 8th of August traditional owners of the land were furious after being issued an eviction notice giving Djab Wurrung people 14 days to leave their sacred land.
The site sits near a mountain range that closely resembles a pregnant woman lying on her back. “This country belongs to the women and children of the Djab Wurrung people, our ancestors and our future generations.” says Zellenach Djab Mara, Lore Man at the Djab Wurrung Protection Embassy.
Currently, first nations people are camping on the land, using their bodies and presence to protect the sacred sites. Thousands of people have passed through the Djab Wurrung Embassy to show their support for the Traditional Owners and their protection of culturally significant sites, song lines and sacred trees.
Zellenach says that they have never been opposed to a highway, only opposed to the development of a highway covering this particular 12.5 kilometre culturally significant stretch.
Lawyer Michael Kennedy believes that “there is an issue of institutional control, and institutional denial. If the government would open up and admit they have made a mistake, everyone would win.”
There is a Northern Route option, that would follow an existing treeless power-line easement and have no impact on culturally significant sites. People have also protested claims that the freeway bypass is necessary for road safety, as the speed limit could easily be decreased from 110 kph.
Zallanach Djab Mara, of the Djab Wurrung Embassy states “I’m prepared to die for my country, as my people have done before me. I’m prepared to die for my country, to give a place to our women and children, which is our cultural inheritance anyway.”
“At the end of the day there’s nothing to negotiate. This is women’s country we’re not going anywhere. Daniel Andrews needs to intervene and stop the destruction of our heritage. The eviction notice must be lifted and Major Roads Victoria needs to restart planning for this project, with Djab Wurrung at the centre of any negotiations.”
Environment minister Sussan Ley has the ability to go above the state and protect these sacred lands… should she choose to. You can contact Minister Ley here to let her know that the Australian people care about protecting this country’s sacred sites.
For more information visit the Djab Wurrung Embassy website or watch Sacred trees VS a freeway bypass: The fight for Indigenous land.
This is an issue for all Aussies, not just first nations people. I wonder, if this was an 800-year-old church, would the government be so quick to tear it down?