A 700-year-old Dja Dja Wurrung Birthing Tree was set alight on Thursday night in an act of vandalism.
The red gum sits on Dja Dja Wurrung Country in Talbot, Victoria.
According to Victoria Police, the Birthing Tree, situated off a remote road north of Talbot, was set on fire “by unknown persons about 6.00pm”.
A vehicle has been reported by witnesses and a police investigation is underway.
The fire, which was lit inside the tree, was reported to the Country Fire Authority (CFA).
The CFA worked closely with Police and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (Djaara) to stop the fire from consuming the Birthing Tree.
The Birthing Tree is recorded as a Significant Tree on the Register of the National Trust and is culturally significant to Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners, particularly women.
It is a place which has delivered thousands of generations of Dja Dja Wurrung peoples to Djandak (Country).
At 15 metres wide, the Birthing Tree has a hollowed-out centre which sheltered Dja Dja Wurrung women during their labour.
“It is a location that holds cultural practices of ceremony, song, and stories that tie Dja Dja Wurrung people to this land, our culture, and our history,” said Djaara CEO Rodney Carter.
Carter noted that Djaara is “saddened by the attempts made to damage such a significant tree” and said that the organisation is thinking of Elders and community at this time.
“The harm to this tree, our malamiya (cultural heritage), is extremely disappointing.”
“Djaara and Dja Dja Wurrung people are determined to do our best to ensure the survival of this old tree that holds so much history and who has witnessed so much.”
Djaara Cultural Heritage Officers are now working with an arborist to assess the damage to the Birthing Tree and ensure its return to health.
Carter expressed thanks to the those who saved the Birthing Tree from further harm.
“We will continue to fight to save the tree as Dja Dja Wurrung history and culture cannot and will not be erased by the actions of others.”
By Rachael Knowles