Djap Wurrung country covers the volcanic plains of central Victoria, from the Mount William Range of Gariwerd in the west to the Pyrenees range in the east encompassing the Wimmera River flowing north and the headwaters of the Hopkins River flowing south.
For Djap Wurrung people, the land is their means of survival. There land provides them with food, water and shelter and connects them to their Dreaming and their Creators.
Threat to sacred land
In 2013 an upgrade to the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell was announced. This upgrade included adding an extra lane in each direction between Burrumbeet and Stawell.
A Cultural Heritage Management Plan was approved in 2013, however this was done with a registered Aboriginal party, which is no longer in operation. The plan also faced scrutiny after it was found that a land deal was struck between Victoria's roads department and the former Aboriginal cultural heritage authority.
A 12.5km section of the upgrade, from Buangor to Ararat, is where the main threat lies. The upgrade will see over 3000 trees cut down with around 200 of them holding importance to the Djap Wurrung community, the stretch of road being updated and the area that surrounds it lies on sacred women’s land on Djap Wurrung country. One of these trees is an 800 year old birthing tree that has seen over 50 generations born inside of a hollow in her trunk. There is also a 350 year old directions tree that has been shaped and resembles a Woman.
Image source: 3CR.
Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy is formed
In 2018, as the threat of the trees being cut down grew closer the Djap Wurrung Embassy was formed. Initially just a small tent with a sign the embassy has now grown and is made up of three large camps identified as top camp, middle camp and women’s camp. While the campaign is lead by Djap Wurrung community there is a diverse range of people who regularly stay and live on the sites maintaining a front to ensure that people can stay in the loop as things happen.
One of those people living at the embassy and who has been there since the beginning is Zellanach Djab Mara, a Djap Wurrung man who now spends his time fighting to save the land and educating those who pass through the camp.
The Embassy applied to have six culturally significant trees protected from the upgrade to the Western Highway, however, this was initially rejected. An appeal was then launched which was successfully upheld in court after Judge Alan Robertson noted that a ‘legal error’ had been made in the initial assessment by the federal Environment Minister.
How can I help?
There are many different ways to help out the Embassy.
Firstly, contacting the government and relevant figures is extremely helpful. The Embassy has made a list of who to contact and how as well as how you can help them which you can read here.
If you are able to, your presence at camp is always good. If you go up it is best to stay for 2 days or more and you will need to bring bedding if possible. They do have tents and other sleeping arrangements if you have nothing and there is women’s only camping available.
If you aren’t able to be there you can also donate money and goods (which are still good to bring if you do stay) such as:
- Fire wood
- Tarps & Marques
- Banner material & paints
- Pre-made meals,
- Food vouchers
This process is ongoing and therefore new information and agreements will continue to arise. You can follow the Djap Wurrung Embassy’s update page on their website or on their on facebook, instagram and twitter to stay up to date. Deadly story will also share updates and alerts on our instagram page as they occur.
- Djap Wurrung Embassy
- Western Highway Duplication, Road Projects Vic
- ‘Sacred’ Djap Wurrung trees earmarked for removal get temporary reprieve following protests, NITV
- Removal of sacred Djap Wurrung trees an 'act of cultural terrorism', NITV
- Protection of sacred trees continues to curb highway upgrade, NITV