The number of protesters is growing just outside of Ararat, as they continue to fight to save their ‘cultural heritage’ and plead for the Victorian Government not to destroy their ‘sacred land.’
More than 200 people are camped 10km outside of Ararat beside the Western Highway according to Zellanach Djab Mara, Djab Wurrung representative, who says they expect that number to grow.
The Western Highway duplication project was scheduled to resume last Monday but was delayed due to the ongoing protest.
“The government has sufficiently addressed the issue of the trees and other culturally sensitive sites,” a spokesperson for the Minister for Roads, Jaala Pulford said.
The spokesperson said that they have responded to concerns of the Aboriginal community and changed the alignment of the Western Highway duplication project between Buangor and Ararat.
“Discussions with the Aboriginal community highlighted the significance of two trees and we’ve taken proactive steps to protect them by changing the road alignment.”
The Djab Wurrung people have told AC News that it is not only the two birthing trees that they’re protecting, but thousands of other trees.
“People just think it’s just two birthing trees when it’s really in excess of 3,000 culturally modified scar trees,” Djab Wurrung representative
Zellanach Djab Mara said.
He said that the traditional landowners are objecting to people causing decimation to sacred, significant and cultural sites.
“We’re not the ones causing the trouble here. We’re not the ones going to people’s homelands, wanting to destroy their sacred sensitivity to put a road in.”
“We’ve told them that they’re sacred sites. These are the most sacred sites…when we talk reincarnation, when we talk about life.”
“This is women’s place, so why are they wanting to come and destroy women’s places? This is a birthing place, where life starts.”
Zellanach said that the people of Ararat and surrounding towns are also going to suffer the consequences of this highway being put in place.
“Everyone thinks the road’s going through the township [of] Ararat and life’s going to be rosy because there’s going to be a better road. It’s going to go around the mountains, around the hills and bypass Ararat. It’s going to bypass all these little towns.”
Ararat Rural City Council CEO Dr Tim Harrison said, “The Council looks forward to the new roadway being finished. The majority of the community supports the project and Ararat Rural City Council supports the community.”
The Djab Wurrung people will remain at the camps along the Western Highway as their numbers increase. The protesters are prepared for any response from police.
“We are going to stay united, we are going to stay peaceful, we are going to stay focused and we are going to stand our ground because that’s our human right,” Zellanach said.
“If people want to come and forcibly remove us… by all means come and commit harm, brutality and continue the genocide of Australia’s first nation people.”
Victoria Police told AC News that they don’t have any further comment to make about the Western Highway Bypass project at this stage.
- Straight from our newsroom