• Janet Rice and Djab Wurrung Traditional Owner Meriki Onus. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Senator Janet Rice has implored the state's premier Daniel Andrews to listen to First Nations people, describing the threat of destruction of the Djab Wurrung trees while working towards a state treaty as "gobsmacking".
Madeline Hayman-Reber

26 Aug 2019 - 10:43 AM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2019 - 10:43 AM

The Greens and the traditionally Labor-based Victorian Trades Hall Council threw their support behind the Djab Wurrung people on the weekend, supporting their struggle to save sacred trees from the Western Highway expansion.

On Saturday, the Victorian Trades Hall Council hosted a car convoy meet up which saw a turn out of about 100 people and was attended by Greens Senator, Janet Rice, and State Member for Brunswick, Dr Tim Read.

Ms Rice told NITV News that she couldn't believe the Treaty process was going ahead while the destruction of sacred sites was occurring.

The Greens senator implored the state's Labor Premier Daniel Andrews to listen to First Nations people.

"The complete cynicism of him saying he’s negotiating Treaty with First Nations people while destroying country is just gobsmacking," Ms Rice said.

“It’s incredibly important. It’s cultural heritage, it’s sacred land, and it’s an absolute desecration being destroyed by a road expansion. 

“If there’s no route that’s possible because of cultural land or environmental heritage than the road expansion shouldn’t happen."

Ms Rice suggested the highway could exist for 20kms as a two lane highway in order to save the site.

"It’s much more important to maintain the values, the culture, the sovereign country then it is to destroy it for a road," she said.

Major Road Projects Victoria (MRPV) said there have been a number of crashes and deaths on the road and that an upgrade was necessary.

"The duplication of the highway will vastly improve safety for people in Victoria’s west and has overwhelming support from both the recognised Traditional Owner groups that represent the Djab Wurrung people," MRPV said in a statement.

"Too many people have lost their lives on this road - there have been more than 100 crashes and 11 fatalities on the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell in recent years."

One of the Traditional Owner groups who approved the expansion, Martang PTY LTD had its registration as a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) revoked in August under section 156(2)(a) of the state's Aboriginal Heritage Act.

NITV News submitted questions to the office of Premier Daniel Andrews, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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