Politics

In Some Good News, The Djab Wurrung Trees Case Will Go To Trial And May Win Heritage Protection

Turns out they might actually be worth heritage protections after all.

djab wurrung birthing trees

The Djab Wurrung trees will continue to be protected by court order until the case to halt works on the highway upgrade which threatens them can be heard by the Supreme Court.

Justice Jacinta Forbes said on Thursday the trees and the area surrounding them could be subject to heritage protection laws, and should go to trial.

The court action was launched by Djapwurrung woman Marjorie Thorpe following the destruction of the directions tree earlier this year, one of the few remaining remnants of a Djab Wurrung cultural practice of planting a tree seed with the placenta of a new born child, which creates a spiritual touchstone to commune with their ancestors.

Djapwurrung people hold the trees and their surrounds to be sacred, as a place where women would go to give birth for generations. It is an import connection to country for the group.

The tree was cut down on the same day Melbourne was released from lockdown, sparking protests and outrage.

The Djapwurrung argue remaining trees and the surrounding area will be desecrated by the construction of a highway upgrade on the way to Ararat in western Victoria, which the state government argues will make the road safer.

An injunction preventing work on the Western Highway will be extended to next Friday and is likely to be further extended until the trial date early next year.

Ron Merkel QC acted on behalf of the Djapwurrung and argued that the destruction of the trees and the surrounding area would be violating the right of the Djapwurrung people to enjoy their cultural heritage, protected by two different state laws.

The two pieces of legislation are the Human Rights Charter Act and the Aboriginal Heritage Act, which both allow for Indigenous Victorians to enjoy their culture without interference.

The case will return to the court on December 11 to set a date for trial.