Contributed by Ben Wilson
In recent weeks Major Roads Projects Victoria have been encroaching further and further along the disputed proposed new highway route between Buangor and Ararat.
Defenders say the works are desecrating sacred birthing places. The latest episode was the destruction of a hundred year old and significant tree, known as the Djab Wurrung “directions tree.”
Over the last few days, police have been sent in to block access onto the disputed land and the embassy camp, which has been the organising centre of resistance. About 60 people have been arrested.
Photo by Sean Paris: The Directions Tree before it was cut down
Senator Lidia Thorpe, Victoria’s first Aboriginal senator, likened the tree removal to Rio Tinto’s destruction of the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.
Djab Wurrung people and their supporters have been trying to prevent this from happening for more than two years.
The area and the stand of trees in question are an important and unnecessarily threatened by the building of a new highway section.
A highway might be needed to deal with a dangerous section of road. It does not have to go through this sensitive site. An alternative plan had been suggested. But this is not been considered.
Surely this calls for greater sensitivity and working towards a solution that meets all needs. This seems to have gone missing. The situation shows how much the federal and Victorian governments are out of touch with what is happening on the ground, and their lack of will to consult with the whole of the affected community.
Earlier this year, the Federal Government rejected an application to protect trees along the route for a second time.
Refusing to give up, the defenders have vowed to keep their campaign going. They have been calling on supporters to come and help.
Work has been temporarily stopped through legal intervention in the Supreme Court.
This is not over yet.