Djab Wurrung embassy issues red alert as work on highway begins

VicRoad workers begin preliminary work on Western Highway duplication in Djab Wurrung country on September 11. Photo: Elizabeth Jabornik/FB

A red alert was issued by the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy on September 11 after police arrived near the protest camp sites set up by Traditional Owners to protect sacred trees from a $672 million highway duplication project in south-western Victoria.

The workers proceeded to trim some trees and dig up soil samples, part of the highway project's preliminary work. 

It appears the move was aimed at testing the resolve of protesters who have vowed to put their bodies on the line to protect the landscape which is sacred to the Djab Wurrung people. 

The Victorian government is determined to build the 12.5 kilometre duplication of the Western Highway, between Buangor and Ararat, even though it runs through a songline on Djab Wurrung country.

The government has refused to engage in serious consultation with the Djab Wurrung, only offering to protect about 15 of the 200 sacred trees under threat, some of which are 800 year's old.

Djab Wurrung man Zellanach Djab Mara, who established the embassy 15 months ago, said: "Cutting down the trees is like cutting our hair. Keep doing it, and we’ll be bald...

“Cutting the songlines is like cutting our arteries."

He has asked people to "come to country" and protect the beautiful and ancient trees. 

The embassy is going strong, but Djab Mara warns the government is “always watching us” and will strike when the camp is weak.

People are being asked to stay at the embassy for as long as possible. 

An urgent court injunction is will be sought on September 12 to halt any further work.

[To keep up to date visit the Djab Wurrung embassy website or Facebook page.]