• Djab Wurrung man DT Zellanach has been camped out at the site for 18 months. PHOTO: Leo Flander (Leo Flander)Source: Leo Flander
At least two hundred supporters from across Victoria journey to a site in the state's western districts to join a demonstration to save sacred Djab Wurrung trees, but the protest itself has now been threatened with eviction.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

21 Aug 2019 - 7:24 PM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2019 - 9:28 AM

At the sacred Djab Wurrung site just outside of Ararat in Victoria's mid-west stands a culturally significant birthing tree said to be over 800-years-old.

Over its lifetime, the tree has overseen the arrival of 10,000 Djab Wurrung babies and been sustained by the blood of hundred of generations of Djab Wurrung women.

Yet, the land surrounding the tree is set to be bulldozed to make way for a bypass along the Western Highway, potentially as soon as midnight Thursday, after an application from Djab Wurrung lawyer Michael Kennedy to protract an eviction notice was denied by Major Road Projects Victoria (MRPV).

Traditional Owner, domestic violence support worker, and candidate for the Victorian Treaty Commission's 'Assembly', Sissy Austin, said she felt like destruction of her country resembled being in a violent relationship with the state government.

“What the government are doing to Djab Wurrung country is every single alarm bell in an unhealthy and a violent relationship,” she told NITV News.

“Controlling and no consent, and everything around that. It’s all symptoms - that I’m pretty sure the government are very aware of - of a violent and controlling relationship. That’s what I’m feeling that the government are inflicting on us as Djab Wurrung women."

Traditional Owner DT Zellanach has been camped at the site for 18 months and is responsible for founding the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy. 

“We’re standing up for a particular part of our country that belongs to our birthing, that belongs to the creation of our women’s dreaming, our women’s birthing, which is their birthright, which is our birthright," Mr Zellanach said.

While often there are between two to 50 people camped out at the site, on Wednesday they had been joined by about 200 supporters, who travelled from across the state to help protect the sacred women's area.

“We come from that process at one time or another, and so the only way to honour that process is to stand up and truely be who we are and do what we’re doing - that’s standing on our country, as leaders of our country," Mr Zellanach said.

"And for giving a place for many, many spirits to come and connect up with the common cause of standing in solidarity."

While not everyone who turned up in solidarity on Wednesday stayed the night, they came bearing food, warm clothes, blankets, and even specially made signs.

Other people chose to attend the Ararat office of MRPV, where it was reported that about 100 people sat in silence with signs, blocking the entrance to the building.

Arrests are expected overnight and in coming days. 

Traditional Owners and their allies say they are prepared to put their bodies on the line, while the embassy's lawyers continue to work to find legal means to save the sacred trees. 

“I’m expecting to get locked up to tell you the truth," said Djab Wurrung Lore Man Alfred Bamblett. "I’m ready for that.

“So, we’ll just keep coming back and doing what we have to do.”

This article was updated on Monday, 26 August after incorrectly stating the birthing tree was set for removal. 

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