Hundreds of protesters moved into Melbourne’s CBD this morning to continue their fight to save sacred trees, set to be cut down to make way for the Western Highway duplication between Buangor and Ararat.
Many of the ‘sacred land protectors’ travelled from the Djab Wurrung Embassy on the outskirts of Ararat to gather on the steps of Parliament House, demanding that the Victorian Government rethinks the duplication.
The protest was led by Djab Wurrung women, beginning to occupy the steps around 8am which blocked Spring and Bourke Streets until the crowd dispersed at midday.
Djab Wurrung Lore Man Zellanach Djab Mara spoke to those gathered this morning, having so far camped at the Embassy for 15 months.
“We are the land. What you do to our country you do to us. We’ve never cede sovereignty,” Djab Mara said.
“Our women and children are the most oppressed people in this land. I get sick and tired of seeing what men want to do to our women and children.”
“The war’s still continuing. Why are we acting like we’re honeymooning — why are we honeymooning with a treaty with this state government, when they’re doing this to our people? When they’re doing this to our country, our land? When are we going to stop doing this to ourselves?”
He also called for supporters to join those already on country to help protect the site.
Leader of the Victorian Greens Samantha Ratnam attended the protest, sharing the resilience she felt as they resist “the State Labor Government’s plans to destroy sacred women’s and children’s country.”
The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council has also commented today, saying that robust processes for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage have been, and will continue to be, undertaken.
“Victoria has nationally significant legislation that protects Aboriginal cultural heritage through ensuring it is managed by Traditional Owners,” chairperson Rodney Carter said.
“The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council supports Traditional Owners to speak for their cultural heritage and supports this through undertaking statutory responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.”
“The process of managing our cultural heritage is undertaken through rigorous applications to both federal and state legislation, ensuring inclusion within our community and engagement with our neighbours.”
“The broader Djab Wurrung community have been consulted on the Western Highway alignment, between Buangor and Ararat, and will continue to consult with government on this project.”
“The voices of Djab Wurrung people have been heard through the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation and Martang Pty. Ltd.
The Djab Wurrung Embassy has told AC News numerous times that the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation does not share the same opinion as the Djab Wurrung people, and therefore can not speak on their behalf.
Those camping at the Djab Wurrung Embassy were told to leave over a month ago but no action has been taken since their eviction notice expired.
-Producer & Anchor
-Founder of AC News in 2017