Sacred 350-year-old Indigenous tree cut down for Victorian highway upgrade, activists report

A centuries-old tree has been cut down along Victoria’s Western Highway, according to activists who had set up camp to protect sacred trees from the highway upgrade project.

The Djab Wurung Directions Tree

The Djab Wurrung Directions Tree Source: Supplied/Sean Paris

Activists supporting local Indigenous groups say the sacred 350-year-old Djab Wurrung Directions Tree has been cut down by Victorian government workers, as police descended on the group’s protest camp on Monday.

Djab Wurrung country, along Victoria’s Western Highway, the main road linking Melbourne to Adelaide, has been the scene of a protest camp for more than a year.

Activists and Indigenous groups are protesting the Western Highway upgrade project, which would see sacred 800-year-old birthing trees destroyed.

Activists on Monday said that 15 police vehicles descended on the site, dismantling camp structures and blocking off protesters from the Directions Tree, which was later destroyed.

A spokesperson for Victoria Police confirmed to SBS News the operation to remove camps.

“Police have a strong dedicated presence along the Western Highway today as part of an operation to remove camps and protestors from restricted areas as highway construction work continues between Buangor and Ararat,” the statement said.

“Victoria Police respects people’s right to protest peacefully and are there to ensure no breaches of the peace or antisocial behaviour occurs as a result of protest action at the site,” it added.

Daniel Andrews defends cutting down sacred tree for highway upgrade

Authorities have previously said they have consulted with the community and Traditional Owners about the highway upgrade.

They also said the stretch of road has seen more than 100 crashes and 11 fatalities in recent years.

Activists have urged the Victorian government to change the route of the highway upgrade to save the trees.

Last year up to 500 protesters gathered at the site ahead of reports that the protesters at the camp would be evicted.

Published 26 October 2020 at 8:16pm, updated 26 October 2020 at 8:34pm
By Jarni Blakkarly