It was reported yesterday that the 350-year-old sacred Directions Tree was taken down by the Victorian Labor Government to make way for highway construction connecting Victoria and South Australia. This news upsets the local Djab Wurrurng Indigenous community as the tree held huge significance towards their connection to the country and their ancestors. What was supposed to be a celebratory moment due to the easing of restrictions is now a day of sorrow.
Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe says that the problem is caused by the Cultural Heritage Legislation, encouraging the creation of Aboriginal Corporation Groups, allowing the government to make negotiations without speaking to the other traditional owners within the area. She also says that she is disappointed that the Andrews Government would backhand the Indigenous community by removing an important tree at the same time as the COVID-19 press conference.
However, Victorian Transport Minister – Jacinta Allan and a spokesperson from Major Roads Project Victoria both released statements to The Wire that the tree that was reported wasn’t the 350-year-old sacred tree, but rather, a 100-year-old tree known as as the Fiddleback Tree. That tree existed post-European settlement and is away from where the 350-year-old tree is located. Both also have said that the construction has been approved by relevant traditional owner groups, an independent environment effects statement process, the Supreme Court, the Federal Environmental Minister, and the Victorian Ombudsman.
Is this a case of mistaken Identi-tree? But most importantly, should the government work on making better relationships with the local Indigenous groups to avoid further discourse?
Erielle Sudario has the story.