Why I’ve been camping on a highway for more than a year

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Amanda Mahomet and her family have been protesting on the side of a highway, two hours from Melbourne, to protect their culture.

Sacred trees on Djab Wurrung country have been marked for removal to make way for the upgrade of a stretch of the highway connecting Adelaide and Melbourne - the busiest highway in Victoria.

According to developers, removing a 12km section of the trees is necessary for the upgrades. The developer, Major Road Projects Victoria, says this stretch of highway is deadly and the bypass would decrease the number of trucks on the road.

But the Djap Wurrung community say alternatives are possible and the removal of the trees is not an option. So Amanda Mahomet and her people have been camping on the highway to protect the site.


 

A handful of us are still standing after many months of daily racial taunts from drivers.

We are enduring rain, storms, strong winds and missing out on the luxuries of everyday living. It's no easy task but we know it must be done. 

This “small” battle must be won, or the big battles will escalate, and this nation and its People will be lost forever.

The Women Warriors left protesting are from all walks of life, and the fact that they descend from other nationalities has no impact. They are now my Sisters. They get it. Better than most. They understand the importance of keeping culture alive, it is the reason why they are my fellow warriors.

A plan by Vic Roads to widen the highway just outside of Ararat is why we are sitting on country. In this 12km or so stretch they plan to develop, hundreds of trees will be gone if their plan goes ahead. Beautiful trees, including a 350 year old directions tree that resembles a woman.

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Amanda and her family camping by the birthing trees.
Amanda Mohomet

That’s why we have been camping out on the Western Highway in Victoria for more than a year. The development must stop.

If VicRoads succeeds, they will be ripping up the land in which we are still finding artefacts.

To our People, the land is our means of survival. It is our food, spirit, identity and culture. Our lands have a spiritual value and not an economic one.

If the land is destroyed so is our dreaming. Our dreaming is our story. It is what connects us to the beginning of time, back to our spirit ancestors, our creators.

Today, roads are built on our song lines and our song lines are what connect our stories. 

Our stories are passed down to teach us to respect Mother Earth, our sacred places and all living creatures. They teach us morals and more importantly the law, what is accepted and what is not.

We must be given our rights to be the true custodians and caretakers of this nation. If we do not take a stand now, our culture, along with our People, will be a distant memory.

It was never ok for our lands to be taken away.

Sovereignty never ceded.