• The Djap Wurrung Embassy has been set up to protest the removal of the sacred trees. (Facebook)
A protest camp and tent embassy have been set up to stop the bulldozing of sacred trees for the new Western Highway.
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

Source:
NITV News
18 Jun 2018 - 4:57 PM  UPDATED 19 Jun 2018 - 12:23 PM

Around 50 people attended a protest today in Victoria's west against the removal of sacred trees by the Victorian Government.

In the Ararat region, over 260 trees sacred to the Djap Wurrung peoples - including a traditional birthing tree - have been flagged to be bulldozed in preparation for the $42 million Western Highway project.

The highway will create 12.5 kilometres of road from Buangor to Ararat, and an official sod-turning ceremony took place on Thursday to signify the beginning of the works.

“The government is going to destroy these 800-year-old endangered redgums, instead of planning an alternative route which research shows is safer, quicker and cheaper. This is such shoddy planning," Gunnai-Kurnai Gunditjmara woman and Greens MP Lidia Thorpe said.

“These trees are home to two endangered species and are sacred to Aboriginal families who use them for shelter, cooking and many other culturally significant things."

The trees are said to have not only been there for over 800 years, but the birthing tree has seen the delivery of an estimated 10,000 Djap Wurrung babies, with ties to 56 families.

Speaking from the site on Monday, Yigar Gunditj, Bindal and Erub Mur Islander woman Tarneen Onus-Williams told NITV News only one Djap Wurrung family had been consulted on the removal of the trees.

"A group has given consent for them [VicRoads] to cut down the trees but they're not representative of all of the Djap Wurrung people, and they're only representative of one family," Ms Onus-Williams said.

"It's pretty heartbreaking that something that literally has the blood of Aboriginal women as part of these trees, have given these trees nutrients to grow for 800 years, is going to be chopped down."

Ms Onus-Williams' mother Tracey Bamblett Onus labelled it an act of cultural terrorism.

"It's an act of terrorism, it's cultural terrorism, desecration," she said.

"That'd be like us going into the botanical gardens in Melbourne and start chopping down their trees, or bulldozing Captain Cook's cottage, which has only been there a couple of hundred years, if that."

Both Ms Onus-Williams and Ms Bamblett Onus have encouraged people to protest the removal of the trees by attending the site, or their local VicRoads office.

"We have got intangible heritage, and we have significant cultural heritage places that need to be saved for the future generation," Ms Bamblett Onus said.

"Not only for our children, but for everyone's children, because they need to know what the cultural landscape is all about and everyone in this country needs to know and be able to see something that is as significant as that."

NITV News has requested comment from VicRoads and Martang Pty Ltd.

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