Hundreds of protesters continue to flood in to the Djab Wurrung Embassy near Victoria’s Western Highway, where plans to destroy centuries old trees are still under way despite fierce opposition.
Some of the sacred trees include an 800-year-old birthing tree that has seen more than 50 generations of Djab Wurrung Traditional Owners born inside the hollow of its trunk and a 350-year-old directions tree that resembles the shape of a woman.
Traditional Owners say the area containing these trees is part of their song line, but a plan by the Victorian State Government to create a four-lane highway means 3000 trees in a 12km stretch of spiritual significance will be destroyed.
A statement from the Andrews Labor Government in February stated the Government has “worked with the Aboriginal community on these localised design changes that will ensure two significant trees are retained along the alignment.”
“We understand how important these trees are to the Aboriginal community, which is why we’ve listened and made these changes to the Western Highway alignment to retain them,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.
The project has been approved by the Federal Government and is to be delivered by Major Road Projects Victoria.
No formal agreement between the Embassy and the Government has been reached yet, meaning Traditional Owners and supporters are continuing their fight for Djab Wurrung country.
Some protesters at the Djab Wurrung Embassy have been on-site for over a year, including Embassy representative Amanda Mohamet and her family.
Over the weekend a convoy of union members made their way to the Embassy in a show of solidarity with Traditional Owners.
Led by a ute flying the Aboriginal flag, 26 vehicles carrying approximately 100 union members rolled into the Djab Wurrung Embassy Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve been standing here peacefully, stamping our spiritual authority on our country for 15 months. To have our union brothers and sisters behind us only strengthens our position,” said Ms Mohamet.
“The union movement understands what struggle is, right now we have no justice on our country. We stand proud of all our mobs right across this beautiful continent, all over the landscape and we stand united with their struggles and their wars.”
Since the expiry of a notice to evict campers at the Embassy, support for the protesters has only grown.
Police are now free to attend the site and evict protesters at any time.
This comes at a time where Indigenous Victorians are in the process of Treaty.
A Government spokeswoman declined to comment on the message this sends to Indigenous Victorians as they pursue Treaty with the Andrews Labor Government.
“We have all the necessary heritage permissions to get back to work on this urgently needed safety upgrade and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Government will continue discussions with all parties throughout this process.”
Ms Mohamet said she will continue to ask for her homelands to be safe.
“We’re asking for Daniel Andrews to follow this demonstration from the unions, to come and show his respect on our country, cancel the eviction notice and conduct an open dialogue with our First Nations People,” Ms Mohamet said.
By Hannah Cross