The Victorian Supreme Court has finanlly granted protection of the Djab Wurrung trees between Buangor and Ararat until there is a full trial in February.
On Thursday, Justice Jacinta Forbes said the decision would not only apply to six trees, known as E1 and E6, but also to the area surrounding them.
“I am satisfied that there is evidence of physical features of cultural heritage importance within the landscape of the specified area more broadly than the six identified trees and the focus areas,” Forbes said of her decision.
“At this stage there is a real question to be tried as to whether Aboriginal places have been identified throughout the area so that the harm that they may suffer is managed to be avoided or minimised in accordance with the Act, and done so in a way approved by statute and thereby rendered lawful.”
— Lidia Thorpe (@lidia__thorpe) December 3, 2020
Since 2018, activists have been protesting the construction of the Western Highway in Victoria, which would involve the tearing down of sacred trees on Djab Wurrung Country.
On October 26, highway construction workers tore down a 350-year-old Djab Wurrung Directions Tree to make way for the new highway.
“It was a very spiritual tree, very moving and powerful. The Australian government had no consent or jurisdiction to remove that tree,” Djab Wurrung man Zellanach Djab Mara told The Age at the time.
I can feel the chainsaws tearing through my heart, my spirit, my DjapWurrung body is in pain. Today I laid on the floor and cried. Cried for our mother, DjapWurrung Country ???? #DjapWurrung
— Eileen Sissy Austin (@EileenSissy) October 26, 2020
Shortly after the sacred tree was torn down, a legal team representing members of the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy filed a challenge within the Supreme Court.
Temporary relief was granted, which halted works on the construction project for three weeks. The decision made today extends that protection for more than two months.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he had engaged with the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, a registered Aboriginal body representing the area, and they had agreed to protect 16 trees in 2019.
The tree that felled in October was not considered one of those 16 trees by the Victorian Government. However, the Djab Wurrung Heritage Embassy argued that it was of equal importance.