On the same day that Melbourne was celebrating the easing of Covid restrictions in Victoria, a tree of great local cultural significance was cut down. The tree was removed despite the ongoing pleas of the local Djab Wurrung people and other local Aboriginal Victorians and their allies, who have been protesting at the site for over a year.
So if you liked the Avatar film, maybe you’d appreciate how it feels when your sacred ancestor trees are torn down by the very government who want to Treaty with us.
- Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai/Gunditjmara woman and Federal Greens MP for Victoria
The Yellow Box tree, widely known to the community as the Djab Wurrung Directions Tree, was cut down on Monday to make way for an extension of Victoria’s Western Highway, the main road that connects Melbourne to Adelaide.
The Djab Wurrung people have been calling for the protection of culturally significant sites and birthing trees on Djap Wurrung country along the proposed highway extension. The felling of the great tree has caused a huge amount of grief through the local and wider Indigenous community.
The removal of the sacred tree comes only a few months after mining giant Rio Tinto destroyed Juukan Gorge, a sacred Aboriginal site dating back 46,000 years. To make matters even worse, Rio Tinto’s destruction of the site occurred at the beginning of Reconciliation Week. The removal of the Direction Tree comes as a slap in face for Indigenous communities and their allies who are still reeling from the destruction of the gorge earlier this year.
The Victorian government has claimed that the tree was not among those listed as requiring protection in an agreement the Eastern Maar Aboriginal corporation, though this is yet to be confirmed.
Protests are still ongoing with more sacred trees and sites currently at risk. A 700-year-old eucalyptus known as the 'grandfather tree' is still standing nearby. If you feel strongly about this and would like to take action, we urge you to contact the following MPs:
Daniel Andrews (Premier of Victoria)
Richard Wynne (Minister for Planning)
Jacinta Allan (Minister for Transport Infrastructure)
BREAKING: The Victorian Supreme Court has agreed to issue an injunction realignment of the Western Highway until 2pm tomorrow in relation to the Djab Wurrung trees. The matter is listed for directions hearing in the Practice Court at 10:30 am, Thursday, 29 October 2020
(Header photo by Sean Paris, second photo by Zac Crellin)