Leader of the Australian Greens Adam Bandt MP and DjabWurrung traditional owner Lidia Thorpe have today slammed the Environment Minister’s failure to protect the DjabWurrung birthing trees.
The Environment Minister’s assessment of the trees under the ATSIHP Act comes after years of mass community protest against the destruction, by traditional owners and the broader community.
The refusal to protect the trees, which are up to 800 years old and have collectively birthed tens of thousands of DjabWurrung women, means that the Victorian Government can move ahead with plans to bulldoze through the area, destroying at least one tree to make way for a freeway.
“By refusing to protect these vitally culturally important trees, Sussan Ley may as well be driving Daniel Andrews' bulldozer herself,” Greens Leader Adam Bandt MP said.
“In her decision, the Minister admitted the grove of birthing trees was significant to the traditional owners, yet she has given the green light to Daniel Andrews to bulldoze through this sacred site regardless.
"I wrote to the Environment Minister three weeks ago pleading that she fully review all the information and evidence before making her decision. Given the vast evidence of the area's rich and storied ongoing history, it is gutting that she has failed to heed the overwhelming community demand to protect these trees.
“This is a callous decision from the Minister and she should expect it to be challenged by the community. The ongoing rage against Rio Tinto shows that people will no longer accept the senseless destruction of Aboriginal culture.
“The Victorian Government needs to go back to the drawing board on the Western Highway duplication. This road project is not worth the bulldozing of tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal heritage.”
“These trees are sacred, they are a part of who we are as DjabWurrung people. They are a part of our survival and our story,” Lidia Thorpe said.
“These trees must be protected from destruction. The area is part of the song line, and the land connects us to our spirit ancestors and creators. Generations of DjabWurrung people have been born by these sacred trees, but this history risks being lost forever.
“This is a despicable act by the Minister. Sussan Ley was very proud to put a heritage listing on a satellite dish yesterday. Today, she bulldozes sacred sites of our cultural heritage.
“The double standards shown by our government are astounding. Our community has been pushing back hard against this cruel attempt to bulldoze these sacred sites, and this cowardice from the Minister will just strengthen our conviction. The fight must go on.”