Halt destruction of Djab Wurrung sacred trees, say academics

September 11, 2019
Photo: Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy/FB

The struggle of the Djab Wurrung people to protect their sacred lands from a proposed duplication of the Western Highway in south-western Victoria, continues to garner support.

On September, 10 dozens of academics and researchers released the following open letter calling on Victorian premier Daniel Andrews to intervene to save the sacred Djab Wurrung trees.


We, the undersigned, are researchers, scholars and educators who work on questions of transport, policy, planning, climate, culture, ecology and Indigenous sovereignty. We work at institutions that have committed to the safeguarding of Indigenous cultural heritage.

We write to express our grave concern and disappointment about the Victorian government’s plans to bulldoze the sacred trees of the Djab Wurrung people of Western Victoria in order to construct a new alignment of the Western Highway.

The current plan involves the destruction of 3000 trees, including many considered sacred by the Djab Wurrung people. This landscape and its natural and cultural values are important to all Victorians.

Victoria has entered into negotiations toward a Treaty with the First Peoples of Victoria. A project with this scale of impact on First Peoples and Country contradicts Treaty principles of a respectful relationship between sovereign peoples. It also contradicts the principle of free, prior and informed consent as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We call on the Victorian government to:

• Halt works on the proposed Western Highway Alignment project;

• Withdraw the eviction notice for the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy;

• Enter sincere and meaningful negotiations with the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy as to the design of the Western Highway Alignment project so as avoid destruction of Djab Wurrung heritage;

• Undertake a review of Victorian heritage protection policy to ensure that it accords with the Guiding Principles for the Treaty Process as set out in Sections 22-26 of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018, particularly in relation to self-determination, fairness, and equality; and

• In light of the decision making and design process for the Western Highway, in partnership with Victorian Traditional Owners, establish an Indigenous heritage awareness training program to be required for all staff employed in Victorian infrastructure policy, design and construction agencies and their contractors, including relevant ministers and their advisers.


Professor Jago Dodson, RMIT University Professor Libby Porter, RMIT University

Associate Professor Wendy Steele, RMIT University Dr Melissa Neave, RMIT University

Dr Karyn Bosomworth, RMIT University

Dr Bronwyn Lay, RMIT University

Dr Laura Mumaw, RMIT University

Dr Ian McShane, RMIT University

Bonnie Rivendell, RMIT University

Dr Natalie Osborne, Griffith University

Dr Rachel Hughes, University of Melbourne 

Briony Wood-Ingram, RMIT University

Dr Francis Markham, The Australian National University 

Professor Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney

Professor Christopher Ziguras, RMIT University

Dr Ellen van Holstein, University of Melbourne

Dr Peter Chambers, RMIT University

Professor Jon Barnett, University of Melbourne

Dr Elissa Waters, University of Melbourne

Tina Soundias, University of Melbourne

Adam Moore, University of Melbourne

Dr Thomas Bach, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Fred Cahir, Federation University Australia

Thea Hewitt, University of Melbourne

Professor Simon Batterbury, University of Melbourne/Lancaster University Associate Professor Brian Finlayson, University of Melbourne

Professor Robin Goodman, RMIT University

Dr Deborah Cleland, Australian National University

Dr Samantha Capon, Griffith University

Professor Sarah Bekessy, RMIT University

Associate Lecturer Nadia David, RMIT University

Dr Kate Shaw, University of Melbourne

Hon Principal Research Fellow Joan Staples, RMIT University

Dr Briony Towers, RMIT University

Dr Crystal Legacy, University of Melbourne

Marita McGuirk, University of Melbourne

Dr James Rowe, RMIT University

Professor Brendan Gleeson, University of Melbourne

Professor Peter Gell, Federation University Australia

Associate Professor Melinda Hinkson, Institute of Postcolonial Studies Associate Professor Kurt Iveson, University of Sydney

Dr Elizabeth Taylor, Monash University

Professor Rob Watts, RMIT University

Professor Leonie Sandercock, University of British Columbia

Tessa Toumbourou, University of Melbourne

Dr Louise Crabtree, Western Sydney University

Samantha Mannix, University of Melbourne

Dr Ian Woodcock, Swinburne University of Technology

Stacey Campton, RMIT University

Associate Professor Wendy Stone, Swinburne University of Technology 

Shan Windscript, University of Melbourne

Eric Keys, RMIT University

Sofie Onorato, University of Melbourne

Amy Hodgson, University of Melbourne

Christopher O'Neill, University of Melbourne

Molly Mckew, University of Melbourne

Dr Sahar Ghumkhor, University of Melbourne

Ben Kunkler, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Marg Liddell, RMIT University

Dr Mia Martin Hobbs, University of Melbourne

Adam Hembree, University of Melbourne

Anton Donohoe-Marques, University of Melbourne

Dr John Stone, University of Melbourne

Dr Kathryn Davidson, University of Melbourne

Jacqueline Storey, University of Melbourne

Dr Iderlina Mateo-Babiano, University of Melbourne

Jason Brailey, RMIT University

Dr Jemima Amery-Gale, University of Melbourne

Rebecca Quin, Faculty of Science

Professor Tim Edensor, Melbourne University / Manchester Metropolitan Freg Stokes, University of Melbourne

Michael Francis, University of Melbourne

Charity Edwards, Monash University

Dr Alexandra Brown, Monash University

Dr Salman Panahy, University of Melbourne

Dr Luis Mata, RMIT University

Sarah Cooley, University of Melbourne

Ellen Corrick, University of Melbourne

Adjunct Professor Hartmut Fuenfgeld, RMIT University

Dr Hannah Robertson, Monash University

Dr Catherine Phillips, University of Melbourne

Dr Kate Dooley, University of Melbourne

Professor Naomi Stead, Monash University

Carol Que, University of Melbourne

Dr Anna Hurlimann, University of Melbourne

Dr Judy Bush, University of Melbourne

Dr Cathy Oke, University of Melbourne

Dr Janice Barry, University of Waterloo, Canada

Professor Tony Dalton, RMIT University

Associate Professor Sharon Harwood, James Cook University

Jock Gilbert, RMIT University

Dr Simon Connor, Australian National University

Dr Elizabeth Straughan, University of Melbourne

Chabel Khan, University of Melbourne

Raffaella Cresciani, University of Melbourne

Josiah Lulham, University of Melbourne

Associate Lecturer and Industry Fellow Lucy Maxwell, RMIT University 

Dr Bridget Keane, RMIT University

Associate Lecturer Kyle Bush, RMIT University

Associate Professor Kirsten Parris, University of Melbourne

Dr Ata Tara, RMIT University

Dr Philip Belesky, RMIT University

Professor Carl Grodach, Monash University

Jen Lynch, RMIT University

Paula Hendrikx, University of Melbourne

Dr Ilan Wiesel, University of Melbourne

Louise Dorignon, RMIT University

Dr Ben Cooke, RMIT University

Dr Ascelin Gordon, RMIT University

Sally Olds, University of Melbourne

Dr Cecily Maller, RMIT University

Associate Professor Yolande Strengers, Monash University 

Dr Crystal McKinnon, RMIT University

Professor David Jones Deakin University

Dr Melisa Duque, Monash University

Associate Professor Elizabeth Grant, RMIT University

Dr Tim Werner University of Melbourne

Priya Kunjan, University of Melbourne

Professor John Fien, RMIT University

Dr Sarah Robertson, RMIT University

Dr AdelineTay, University of Melbourne

Associate Lecturer Una Stone, RMIT

Dr Karen Olsen, University of Melbourne

Senior Lecturer Fiona Harrisson, RMIT University 

Amaara Raheem, RMIT University

Associate Dean Neal Haslem, RMIT University

Bronwyn Clarke, RMIT University

Marius Foley, RMIT University

Toni Roberts, RMIT University

Professor Laurene Vaughan, RMIT University

Tania Ivanka, RMIT University

Stuart Geddes Industry Fellow, RMIT University

Dr Oliver Vodeb, RMIT

Dr Jenny Grigg, RMIT University

Lisa Rae Bartolomei, RMIT University

Associate Professor Yoko Akama, RMIT University

Dr Mittul Vahanvati, RMIT University

Georgia Janetzki, RMIT University

Dr Anne Beggs-Sunter, Federation University Ballarat 

Floris van der Marel, Swinburne University of Technology 

Associate Professor Mick Douglas, RMIT University 

Yolanda Dawson, RMIT University

Dr James Carey, RMIT University

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