Yesterday morning, the world woke to the news that the famous Parisian monument, the Notre Dame cathedral, was ablaze. The fire had already had devastating consequences, with the iconic spire falling from damage. The news triggered a massive response on social media, with many posting their own memories of visits to the cathedral, and lamenting the extensive damage of such a historical monument. But the news also sparked conversation around a similar and arguably more devastating issue happening on Australian soil – the pending destruction of ancient birthing trees in Victoria, sacred to the Djab Wurrung mob.
Imagine how wild everyone would be if they destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral for a highway. #DjabWurrung— Madeline Hayman-Reber (@MadelineHayman) April 15, 2019
Federal Government rejects Indigenous bid to save sacred trees from highway project#DjabWurrung Cultural #BirthingTrees practice is more than ten times older than #NotreDameCathedral but white rules shows them no respect. https://t.co/dBRwleHTnL— Paul Dutton (@pauldutton1968) April 15, 2019
The #DjabWurrung trees are as old and as sacred as Notre Dame— JeremyBearimy (@karlamac24) April 15, 2019
According to the Djab Wurrung Embassy website, the sacred birthing trees have seen over 50 generations born on site, with some of the trees themselves being estimated at over 800 years old.
These beautiful trees include an 800 year old tree that has seen over 50 generations born inside of a hollow in her trunk and a 350 year old directions tree that has been shaped and resembles a Woman. This area is part of the song line, the series of scared trees and artefacts we find here regularly prove it’s significance.
Currently, the development of the Western Highway bypass will involve the removal of four trees as per information received by NITV news, with two being protected by Major Road Projects Victoria. However, an emergency declaration application was placed in March to see the trees preserved as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.
According to NITV, the Department of Premier and Cabinet alleged that both Martang and the Eastern Marr Corporation, who are the registered Traditional Owner groups, consented to the works, however Eastern Marr denies ever supporting the project.
The latest update according to the Embassy website is that roadworks will not continue until after April 22. Their website also explains the significance of the land surrounding the trees.
It is our food, spirit, identity and culture. Our lands have a spiritual value and not an economic one. If the land is destroyed so is our dreaming. Our dreaming is our story. It is what connects us to the beginning of time, back to our spirit ancestors, our creators.
The Embassy has set up three camps on the land in an attempt to prevent the roadworks from beginning in the area.
If you are interested in supporting the Djab Wurrung mob in their fight to protect the sacred trees, you can do so via the Embassy website here.
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Image: Djab Wurrung Embassy