• Dja Dja Wurrung birthing tree. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners say the sacred birthing tree survived the blaze, as an investigation continues into how it was set alight.
By
Shahni Wellington

Source:
NITV News
9 Aug 2021 - 5:33 PM  UPDATED 9 Aug 2021 - 6:56 PM

Members of the Victorian Aboriginal community are now finding ways to heal, after an ancient birthing tree managed to survive a "suspicious fire."

Traditional Owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people, described the cultural significance of the 'Grandmother Tree' as sacred - having sheltered women and helped delivered many generations of Dja Dja Wurrung people. 

Victoria Police confirmed that the tree, located on a remote road in Talbot, 160 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, was set alight by "unknown persons" on Thursday last week.

While an investigation is still on-going, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, now operating as DJAARA,  confirmed on Monday that the heritage-listed tree had survived.

It did, however, sustain substantial damage with extensive charring of the interior of the trunk and a major part of one limb had been destroyed.

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Dja Dja Wurrung woman and General Manager of DJAARA, Cassandra Lewis, told NITV News that arrangements are now being made to care for site.

"It's devastating and it's an attack really on our ancestors and on our cultural heritage,"

"The DJAARA women will go and pay our respects and do a healing ceremony at the site," Ms Lewis said.

"I think the tree, she needs us now... And we all probably need her too."

Victoria Police and the Central Goldfields Crime Investigation Unit are continuing its investigations.

Victoria Police also acknowledged the distress the incident has caused given the tree’s cultural significance to the Aboriginal community, and urged anyone who witnessed the fire, saw a suspicious vehicle in the area or has any information that could assist police with their enquiries to contact Crime Stoppers.

A report is also being compiled for the Compliance Unit at government body, 'First Peoples - State Relations', formerly known as 'Aboriginal Victoria.'

The tree is being monitored to ensure the fire doesn't re-start, as it did on Friday morning. 

Opportunity to learn 

DJAARA has confirmed it will take steps to protect the tree from any on-going effects of the damage, and is thanking the Talbot Country Fire Authority, local community members and Wadawurrung neighbouring mob who assisted in combatting the blaze.

In a statement, Chairperson of DJAARA, Trent Nelson, informed the public the Grandmother Tree had survived and her 'murrup', or 'spirit', remains strong.

The fire, estimated by VicEmergency to be 1000-square-metres, is now marked as 'safe'.

Ms Lewis wants the public to use this as a reminder to learn more about connection to country.

"What's really important from here is that all community talk and learn more about cultural heritage and share it with their family, with their friends, you know, learn more about registered Aboriginal parties in their regions, and try to take steps to educate themselves on on the significance of these of these cultural heritage pieces," she said.

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