April 15th of 2020 marked a whole year since the Notre Dame tragically caught fire. For over 800 years, the cathedral has homed religious figures and been a place of worship, reflection, and unity. Naturally, the disaster attracted international support and over $1 billion has been provided for its reconstruction so far.
And yet in Australia, the destruction of a sacred site (also over 800 years old) gains little domestic recognition.
The sacred site in question is a 12 km stretch of land in the Djab Wurrung nation- home to many Indigenous birthing trees and victim to the Australian government’s ‘reconstruction’ of the Western Highway. For two years the Djab Wurrung mob have camped on the land in a desperate attempt to protect the country. But on October 26th, the Directions tree, one of the 3000 sacred trees that must be removed for the anticipated highway, was shockingly cut down.
The directions tree, as Djab Wurrung man Zellanach Djab Mara explains, comes from a time when mobs would mix a child’s placenta with the seeds of a tree, so it would grow with the child and become a place of significant spiritual value. In the present day, many Djab Wurrung people believe such trees carry their bloodline and act as guardians. Following the felling of this specific tree, Aboriginal woman and Greens senator Lidia Thorpe emphasised the importance of such areas in carrying the spirits of Indigenous ancestors.
The actions of our government in disregarding this culture and prioritising the urbanisation of our state is largely indicative of the continued, unacceptable oppression of Indigenous Australians. However, to comprehend the true extent of this issue we, as non-Indigenous Australians, must accept that we cannot understand it. This connection of place and land is something traditional owners feel cannot even be described by the English language, let alone by those of us who live and thrive off pure Western constructs.
Our ignorance, indifference and occidental self-absorption continues to destroy the culture, hopes, and memories of Indigenous Australians.
In the last 200 years have we really changed?
To take action, you can call the below numbers and say ‘Stop work on the Djab Wurrung trees’:
Premier Daniel Andrews
(03) 9651 5000
Planning Minister Richard Wynne
(03) 8683 0964
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams
(03) 9096 8587
Transport Minister Jacinta Allen
(03) 8392 6100
Ministerial email addresses are also available online, alongside complaints sections on the ministers’ relevant websites.