28 October 2020

The Andrews Government has escalated its attack on Aboriginal sacred trees to make way for a big road, cutting down a culturally significant ‘directions tree’ despite the objections of the Djab Wurrung people. Police arrested about 60 people, and used Covid laws to impose fines on Aboriginal people seeking to protect their heritage from irreversible damage. Disturbingly, one of the officers sent to arrest people bore a ‘valknut’ tattoo — a symbol that has been adopted by neo-Nazi groups in Australia as a more subtle symbol than the swastika. The Government justifies its removal of sacred trees based on the approval of the Aboriginal Heritage Council — but this is a hand-picked body whose members are appointed by the Minister; meanwhile, the elected representative of the Djab Wurrung Aboriginal community, Sissy Eileen Austin, has resigned from the Victorian treaty process in protest. She explained: “Victoria claims to be progressive in its relationship with Aboriginal people and communities. There are conflicting agendas here, one where the government is supporting the progression of the treaty and the other where they’re comfortable in proceeding with the irreversible destruction of significant cultural heritage. … Our hearts are broken, our trust in the ‘progressive’ Andrews government is broken. We are experiencing a loss like no other…”