The fight for Djab Wurrung continues

7 Sep 2023

While the country’s current focus is on the referendum, Djab Wurrung women focus on yet another attack on sacred women's country. Djab Wurrung woman Sissy Austin writes of the latest attack on another sacred tree on Country.

Djab Wurrung Article - Sissy Austin

On Friday 11th August, I received two dreaded calls from my cousins. They told me our 800-year-old birthing tree on Djab Wurrung Country had been violently attacked. 

The heartbreak in their voices over the phone sent chills through my body. Tears rolled out of my Djab Wurrung body all over again. I thought, here we are again, in pain over the destruction of Country we have been fighting to protect for 6 years. 

We learnt the perpetrator had spray painted “Build the road” on our birthing tree and violently drilled three holes in the base of the tree.

It was later confirmed  those three drill holes were there to inject poison into the tree, our mother country. 

It has been four years since I wrote an article reflecting on Djab Wurrung women being in an abusive relationship with the Victorian State Government. Djab Wurrung Women are still in an abusive relationship with this government.

The state is the perpetrator and we are victim to their actions

The fight to protect Djab Wurrung Country is one that tests the Victorian state and federal government’s processes they have in place to allegedly protect sites of cultural significance.

Our fight has highlighted how flawed these processes are, how undignifying they are, and how they’re carefully constructed to get the consent they’re looking for to take what they want from us and our Country.

On June 18th 2018 the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy was established when Aunty Tracey Onus set up the little blue tent. The embassy successfully protected and preserved the sacred women’s site under attack for two years. The embassy became a place of learning, connecting and a powerful act of protest. 

While we were forced to have bodies on the frontline to ensure protection of the site, we also strategically campaigned. We had lawyers, we sat through long mediations in courts in the city. We tested the Aboriginal Heritage Act and learnt the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council had consented to the Westerm Highway Duplication project as well as the now defunct Registered Aboriginal Party responsible for the area. We rallied on the streets of Melbourne and had our messaging shared throughout the world. 

Throughout this period, we had no choice than to share our intimate connection to our sacred women’s site out of desperation to save it.We  courageously shared the deeply personal and private connection we have, one that has existed for hundreds of thousands of generations.

In October 2020 the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy was violently ambushed by Victoria Police, who had the green light given to them by the progressive state government

I remember this time clearly, when Daniel Andrews announced the lifting of lockdown restrictions and on the same day gave the green light to cut down the Djab Wurrung Directions tree.  

Pictures of the Directions tree,  an irreplaceable element of our country cut and thrown in the back of a truck were splashed over the media. It was a horrific time to be a Djab Wurrung woman, while the rest of the state was celebrating their freedom from the lockdowns. 

Following the ambushing and dismantling of the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy, Major Road Projects Victoria (MRPV) funded full-time security guards to live on our Country without consent. Racist security guards who intimidated and shared their own passion for wanting the road built when we attempted to visit our Country under their power and control.I had a security guard tell me a few weeks ago that the site is God’s country, not Djab Wurrung country and went on to question my 3-year-old nephew’s Aboriginality.

It is suspicious that  MRPV decided to remove the full-time security weeks before the mother tree was attacked. And since the removal of full-time security and gaining access to our country (upon having to seek permission from MRPV) we also learnt that the birthing tree at the site of the former embassy smells disgustingly of urine, the tree that only the male security guards living there have had access to for the past 3 years.

MRPV and its contracted security company have failed their jobs, they have failed to protect our country. One birthing tree reeks of urine and the other graffitied, drilled into and poisoned.

How can a progressive government, who constantly talk about self-determination, refuse to allow Djab Wurrung people to protect and preserve Djab Wurrung country? And instead spend money on having white security guards camp there without our consent.

This Is the same Government that is backing the voice to parliament… if you’re not seeing the red flags here, I encourage you to remove your rose-coloured glasses. 

How much more do we have to go through? How much more do we have to prove? Don’t give me your voice to parliament garbage, Djab Wurrung been voicing to federal and state parliament for six years.

Six years since the little blue tent, and the weekend just gone Djab Wurrung women gathered to heal our mother tree and in turn she healed and strengthened us. She will be okay and we will be okay too.

There was a moment when I looked at the faces of my Djab Wurrung Sisters,  Aunties and my young nieces. This moment felt like a regaining of strength and fight, like our bodies, minds and spirits were collectively ready for the next chapter of this battle. It felt like no one was giving up here and felt strength that we are in this fight together for the long run. 

Djab Wurrung Country is fuelling us more than ever before.

Djab Wurrung women are united. Right now, is the Victorian State and Federal Government’s opportunity to listen and act. 

We need to go back to the drawing board, dismantle cunning consent gaining processes and understand that it is not just us that benefit from the protection of the oldest culture in the world, it is something for all to be proud of.

Back to Stories
Related posts

Businesses like Woolworths don’t base decisions on morals

As we’ve seen with recent media drama around Woolworths and Coles being accused of price gouging, Nat Cromb reminds us we shouldn’t pat companies on the back for doing the bare minimum (especially when they make business decisions instead of moral ones).

He never had a chance – honouring the memory of Joshua Kerr

Meriki Onus honours the life and death of a proud Gunnai, Gunditjmara, and Yorta Yorta man, Joshua Kerr who tragically died in custody in 2022. Meriki has been present at Josh's inquest and offers her insights and reflections into systemic oppression and historical injustices.

Two apology days and no action

On May 26, 1997 the final report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, called the…

Enquire now

If you are interested in our services or have any specific questions, please send us an enquiry.