Today the Victorian Greens will introduce a motion calling for an inquiry into the destruction of sacred trees on Djab Wurrung land.
The inquiry would investigate the policies and actions that led to the state government razing sacred ancestor trees and landscape for the Western Highway duplication project.
In particular it would assess the adequacy of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 in protecting First Nations cultural heritage, including where Traditional Owners have chosen not to become a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) and where there are overlapping or contested RAP and Traditional Owner Group claims.
It would also assess the integrity of the Registered Aboriginal Party system itself, give the Western Highway project proceeded without consultation or the informed consent of the Djab Wurrung Traditional Owners for whom the trees and landscape are most sacred.
Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said the dispute surrounding the project had made clear that current legal framework wasn’t working, and that the Aboriginal Heritage Act was deficient.
While Djab Wurrung elders continue to tell Victorians that these are sacred trees, their voices haven’t been listened to by the state government, and an inquiry into our heritage protection framework would help to reveal how this has been allowed to happen.
Earlier in the year the Victorian Ombudsman reviewed the process and acknowledged that certain voices had been excluded from the discussion, and that the government could have done more to include them.
As stated by Victorian Greens Senator, Lidia Thorpe:
“This violation of our rights as First People shows exactly why the system urgently needs reform. The process as it stands is flawed – it’s the process that allowed this to happen. That’s the definition of systemic racism.
“This legislation is destroying families on the ground. We opposed this legislation when it was voted on in parliament, and we oppose it now. We don’t want to fight each other. This system is designed to divide and conquer.”
As stated by Acting Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell MP:
“How can our state government raze sacred Djab Wurrung trees without the informed consent of Djab Wurrung people closest to the land? It’s clear that our Aboriginal cultural heritage protection framework is broken and we need an inquiry to identify why.
“The Greens are proud to act in solidarity with the Djab Wurrung people and will continue to bring their voices and concerns into the Victorian Parliament.”