The Eastern Marr Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC) said a culturally significant Djab Wurrung Birthing Tree, near Buangor in western Victoria, was vandalised on August 10.
“Build this road” was sprayed on to the sacred tree, as well as drilling into the trunk. The EMAC said such “deliberate act of harm to our heritage” happens “far too often”. It is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to a prosecution.
The Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy was set up in 2018 to protect the trees from a highway duplication between Ararat and Buangor in Western Victoria.
Following several court cases, Traditional Custodians were given a guarantee by the Daniel Andrews government that the trees would be protected. The birthing trees are now protected under Section 12 of the federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.
“Cultural Heritage is an important part of Council and relates to the story of its people … it has a significant impact upon the Eastern Marr Society,” the EMAC said on August 14.
Yarran Bundle said: “Djab Wurrung Women say Wantayngeenkopa leekanyoong ngootook? [What is the matter within you?].”
EMAC acting chief executive officer William Briggs said: “We are deeply saddened by the desecration of the Birthing Tree due to the high nature of cultural significance the tree holds. We will work closely with all involved to ensure that those who are responsible are held accountable.”
Djab Wurrung woman and independent Senator Lidia Thorpe said on August 15 the Andrews government had removed the surveillance systems and protective fencing. She called on federal environment and heritage minister Tanya Plibersek to ensure the maternity trees are safe.
“We need a complete overhaul of this country’s heritage protection framework and we need it urgently. Aboriginal cultural places are destroyed daily either illegally or through legal mechanisms. Every day more of our cultural heritage is being harmed. This is a loss for all people.”