Police stand down after a day of blockades and standoffs

Police have told protesters that they will stand down for the day, after traditional landowners told journalists at the scene they were prepared to be “locked up.”

Authorities left the scene as protesters chanted “always was, always will be, aboriginal land.”

This afternoon people were still arriving to join the protest, parking their cars and walking to the site on foot.

PHOTO: Environment Victoria (Facebook)

“Police will have a strong dedicated presence along the Western Highway this week, as highway construction work recommences between Buangor and Ararat,” Victoria Police said earlier this morning.

“Victoria Police respects people’s right to protest peacefully, but will not tolerate those who break the law and simply won’t tolerate any anti-social behaviour or violence.”

Work was due to resume today between Buangor and Ararat on the Western Highway’s duplication after protests by the Djabwurrung people delayed the project.

“Now that we’ve made localised design changes to the Western Highway to retain two trees identified as significant by the Aboriginal community, site set up work is due to recommence today,” Tim Price, Program Director, Major Road Projects Victoria said in a statement.

“We are working with Victoria Police to facilitate safe access to the worksite.”

The traditional owners say that “VicRoad’s plans to cause violence to many trees, native vegetation, our many wonderful creatures and rip up sacred land of the Djabwurrung people.”

The group says that a Federal Court appeal against an earlier decision to refuse heritage protection is due to be heard next week.

The protesters rigged themselves into trees and a police riot bus had earlier entered the site.

PHOTO: SBS

Premier Daniel Andrews told media this morning that he does not comment on police matters, but said that while being respectful, he wasn’t sure if the supposed trees were all sacred.

“General duties police will be supported by units from the Highway Patrol Operations Response Unit, Dog Squad and Mounted Branch to ensure the safety of all people in the area,” Victoria Police said.

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