Indigenous spiritual leader Zellanach Djab Mara was arrested on Friday for what the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy calls ‘very minor offences.’
Zellanach has been a driving force on the Western Highway as a group of ‘sacred land protectors’ fight to save over 3,000 culturally modified scar trees.
“A member of [Victoria Police] came last week and issued Zellanach with a warrant. He unintentionally missed a recent court date for driving on an expired license and for ‘verbally abusing’ a police officer,” an embassy representative explained.
“He willingly went with the officer under the impression that they were driving him back after they did the necessary paperwork.”
“Instead, they drove him all the way to Horsham Police station and held him there for a few hours…he then stood in front of a judge who denied him bail and remanded him until May 27.”
He was then transported to the Melbourne Assessment Prison the following day.
The Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy has shared numerous posts on their Facebook page calling for justice, love and strength.
‘Dangerous drivers, racist propaganda and dumped carcasses at camps have become more common; Before D.T. was arrested we got a tip from locals that Victoria Police intend to turn a blind eye from vigilante groups attacking camps,’ a post reads.
‘We need to get together and face this prejudice by supporting Mob on their land. Or even if you don’t agree with what we’re doing, injustice is injustice and we need staunch people to act.’
The embassy has had no communication with Zellanach since his arrest, instead, they are focused on campaigning to bring his court date forward.
Zellanach spoke passionately with AC News in March about the ongoing protest.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
“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.”
Speed humps installed to deter tormentors
The ongoing stance by the group has caused a strong debate from both sides of the issue which has recently become physical.
A speed hump has been built by protesters near their middle camp after a ute sped past the camp, quickly stopped and dumped a dead carcass.
The representative said that supporters were left a little shaken.
“The same vehicle and some other unidentifiable vehicles have been speeding down Hillside Road and intimidating supporters,” she said.
“That’s why camp put a speed hump but now council has slowed the speed down.”
“Main camp on the Western Highway is [also] being exposed to racial taunts and foul profanities by drivers.”
The Ararat Rural City Council has not made a comment since March, when 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.”
Victoria Police was contacted by AC News last week for an update on the protest, they have not replied.
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-Founder of AC News in 2017