Australia

Indigenous sacred trees protesters compromise on controversial highway project

Activists had set up camp at the site, between Buangor and Ararat, over concerns about Aboriginal heritage. Source: Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy

Works will resume on a controversial highway in Victoria despite Indigenous concerns about the future of sacred trees.

Works will resume on a controversial Victorian highway upgrade amid an ongoing court case around protecting sacred, Indigenous birthing trees.

Construction will start on duplicating a 3.8km stretch of the Western Highway in the coming weeks after a truce between the state government and some traditional owners.

"Even though the two registered groups that represent the Djab Wurrung people have formally approved the project, we have entered into this agreement as a show of good faith with the protesters," Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said on Thursday.

Traditional Owners have been camped out in an attempt to stop a controversial upgrade to the Western Highway.
Traditional Owners have been camped out in an attempt to stop a controversial upgrade to the Western Highway.
Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy

However, the rest of the duplication works will have to wait as traditional owner protesters challenge a federal government decision to not declare heritage protection for the trees, where women would go to give birth.

Activists have set up camp at the site, between Buangor and Ararat, over concerns about Aboriginal heritage.

Protesters known as the Djab Wurrung Embassy have welcomed the changes and said that it was a least-invasive and cheaper alternative to the original design.

"This will enable the duplication alignment to be built six months faster, at far less cost and with best, least cultural heritage and environment impacts," the group said in a statement.

The design of the road was realigned to save 15 ancient trees from being knocked down, Ms Allan confirmed.

Construction has been delayed by activists camped at the site since June 2018.

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