.

  • Written by Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University
The government intends to destroy Djab Wurrung sacred trees and sites to upgrade the Western Highway at the same time as it seeks heritage status for the Eastern Freeway. Allies Decolonising/gofundme

The Victorian government has announced it is seeking heritage listing for parts of the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne. We heard this news on Wednesday as we sat under a grandfather tree in solidarity with Djab Wurrung people whose cultural heritage is being threatened by the same government.

A Major Road Projects Victoria proposal to extend the Western Highway will destroy sacred Djab Wurrung trees and places. They have been protecting these trees for more than a year, but faced eviction – from their own Country – by today’s deadline. All this is happening as the government is conducting treaty negotiations across the state.

What kind of world do we live in when freeways are valued as of greater cultural significance than the practice of the oldest living culture in the world? Threatening to evict Djab Wurrung while proposing heritage status for the Eastern Freeway is a surreal perversion of law, heritage and community value.

These matters raise important questions about how cultural heritage value is determined and by whom. They also attest to the continued power of roads and transport infrastructure in a climate-changing world.

Protest ‘road signs’ at the camp. artwork by Mick Douglas, Author provided

Scorning an ancient cultural heritage

The proposal to expand the Western Highway has been around for decades. The on-Country presence of Djab Wurrung people was sparked when it became clear the new duplicated section between Buangor and Ararat would destroy their sacred trees, which include an important directions tree and birthing site.

This is not merely about protecting individual trees – some of which are up to 800 years old. It’s about the way those trees relate to each other, the landscape, Djab Wurrung people and their law, which have been here for thousands of generations.

Victoria supposedly has a legislative system for protecting this Aboriginal heritage. The government asserts that it has followed the “due process” of this system in relation to the Djab Wurrung trees. The fact that Djab Wurrung Elders and leaders have been protesting on site for the past 15 months raises serious questions about what constitutes “due process”.

Many concerns have been raised about a flawed system. At the very least, it has been exposed as a blunt instrument clearly not sensitive enough to cope with these complexities.

Not only is the government unwilling to negotiate on Country in good faith, Djab Wurrung people are being actively silenced and criminalised. One of the leaders, Zellanach Djab Mara, was recently held on remand for 26 days on a charge of driving without a licence, which his supporters saw as a move to “get him off Country”. A magistrate later said Zellanach’s time in custody was too long for a minor offence.

But Djab Wurrung people will not be silenced. More than 500 people arrived at the camp on Wednesday in solidarity. The campaign has gained international media attention and more than 130,000 people have signed a petition.

Hundreds of supporters gather at Djab Wurrung embassy camp on Wednesday, August 21. Photo by Megan Williams, used with permission, Author provided

Celebrating 50 years of freeway culture

Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway certainly has history, a notorious one. Traversing Wurundjeri Country, its construction caused massive destruction of Wurundjeri places and heritage. It also displaced working-class communities in inner Melbourne, triggering one of Australia’s most significant anti-freeway campaigns.

Tony Birch has written eloquently about the scar the Eastern Freeway created psychologically and geographically. The damage included:

[…] obliteration of a vital section of the river at its confluence with the Merri Creek, a once majestic waterway winding its way into the north across Wurundjeri land.

But these are not the histories the government seeks to honour by heritage-listing the Eastern Freeway. These histories are silenced in favour of bridge design. Just like the concurrent attempt at erasing Djab Wurrung heritage. Listing the Eastern Freeway would assert that the destruction such roads create is something we collectively value as heritage.

Heritage in an upside-down world

Both these decisions expose just how upside-down and perverse our way of collectively cherishing place and heritage has become. And both advance a transport system that continues to encourage high-carbon mobility, despite Victoria’s legislated commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

A viable and cheaper route for the Western Highway duplication is available, just as a viable alternative to the Eastern Freeway once existed.

Road safety is vital, certainly. But surely it would be better achieved by reducing freight traffic on roads, rather than enabling everyone to drive faster. Freight rail offers an alternative solution to some of the key issues that advocates of the Western Highway project use to justify it.

It is possible to have highway safety and efficient mobility at the same time as protecting sacred places and actual cultural heritage through genuine processes.

Proposing a freeway for heritage listing is a clear statement of a government willing to cherry-pick what counts as heritage. As Djab Wurrung Traditional Owner and former state MP for Northcote Lidia Thorpe asserts:

The protection of high cultural and natural values must be part of any treaty process, rather than brazenly destroying those values while the treaty process is under way.

A way forward

We call on the Victorian government to immediately establish a respectful dialogue with Djab Wurrung people by accepting their invitation to come to Country and talk with Elders and leaders in good faith. To do so the threat of eviction must be immediately withdrawn. As Zellenach said to us while we were at camp, “no one can effectively negotiate while under duress”.

If the Victorian government is serious about Treaty, this is the opportunity to demonstrate understanding of what respectful recognition of Indigenous sovereignty looks like.

The world is watching.

Sign at the Djab Wurrung embassy. Photo by Blanche Verlie, Author provided

Marianne (Ria) Jago at the Victorian Women’s Legal Service is a collaborator on this article.

We wrote this article on Djab Wurrung Country at the invitation of Djab Wurrung people to help protect their Country. We pay respects to Djab Wurrung Elders past, present and emerging and the sovereign Aboriginal peoples on whose lands we each live and work.

Libby Porter receives funding from Australia Research Council.

Bronwyn Lay is affiliated with Earthworker as a Board member and past member of the Greens.

Amaara Raheem, Blanche Verlie, and Mick Douglas do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

Read more http://theconversation.com/what-kind-of-state-values-a-freeways-heritage-above-the-heritage-of-our-oldest-living-culture-122195

Primary Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing an Office Space in Philadelphia

Choosing your first office space is thrilling. The excitement of finally setting up your own office is so satisfying. When you start scouting around to select your office space, there are so many fa...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

Freedom And Flexibility - How A Virtual Office Allows For Greater Adaptability

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and economic conditions is essential in business. For entrepreneurs and startups who want to maximise their chances of success regardless of outside cir...

News Company - avatar News Company

Eat your heart out: native water rats have worked out how to safely eat cane toads

Water rats in Western Australia are safely hunting cane toads. Author providedAustralia’s water rats, or Rakali, are one of Australia’s beautiful but lesser-known native rodents. And these...

Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne - avatar Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, and Honorary Research Associate, BioSciences, University of Melbourne

Curious Kids: where do phobias come from?

Phobias are an intense fear of very specific things like objects, places, situations or animals. ShutterstockIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconv...

Lara Farrell, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Griffith University - avatar Lara Farrell, Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist, Griffith University

Best Family-Friendly Zoos In America

Zoos have always been part of family travel destinations. This is where your kids get to see the animals that they only often see on their books. Visiting one also provides a learning experience for...

News Company - avatar News Company

Activists are using the climate emergency as a new legal defence to justify law-breaking

The phrase “climate emergency” became part of the political lexicon this year. Governments at all levels made declarations of a climate emergency, as did various organisations such as the ...

Nicole Rogers, Senior lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University - avatar Nicole Rogers, Senior lecturer, School of Law and Justice, Southern Cross University

Don't tear it down: the idea behind Labor's National Rental Affordability Scheme is worth saving

The Grattan Institute has condemned the National Rental Affordability Scheme as a $1 billion windfall to developers. www.shutterstock.comLabor’s Rudd-era National Rental Affordability Scheme (NR...

Marcus Luigi Spiller, Associate Professor (Urban Planning) - honorary  , University of Melbourne - avatar Marcus Luigi Spiller, Associate Professor (Urban Planning) - honorary , University of Melbourne

City share-house rents eat up most of Newstart, leaving less than $100 a week to live on

Even when sharing a house, the average cost of rent means very little is left over from the Newstart allowance for food and living costs. shutterstock.comIn all Australia’s capital cities, avera...

Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University - avatar Simone Casey, Research Associate, Future Social Service Institute, RMIT University

Users (and their bias) are key to fighting fake news on Facebook – AI isn't smart enough yet

On its own, human judgement can be subjective and skewed towards personal biases. The information we encounter online everyday can be misleading, incomplete or fabricated. Being exposed to “fa...

Gianluca Demartini, Associate professor, The University of Queensland - avatar Gianluca Demartini, Associate professor, The University of Queensland

Fairest and best? Status counts in the Brownlow Medal

Tonight is the AFL’s annual night of nights, the red-carpet spectacular known as the Brownlow Medal vote count. The Brownlow is awarded to the season’s “fairest and best” play...

Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University - avatar Liam Lenten, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics and Finance, La Trobe University

How Australians talk about tucker is a story that'll make you want to eat the bum out of an elephant

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDNot to put a damper on things, but Australian food hasn’t always made us happy little Vegemites. One needn’t look further than the humble meat pie ...

Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University - avatar Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University

In a chatty world, losing your speech can be alienating. But there's help

People who have trouble with their speech, say after a stroke, can find it challenging. But a speech pathologist can help. from www.shutterstock.comSam is a high school drama teacher — articulat...

Kirrie J Ballard, Professor, Speech Pathology, University of Sydney - avatar Kirrie J Ballard, Professor, Speech Pathology, University of Sydney

From crime fighters to crime writers - a new batch of female authors brings stories that are closer to home

In Dervla McTiernan’s book, The Scholar, published earlier this year, women are consistently used as the “fall guys” for men with high aspirations. Two young women are killed when th...

Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing, University of New England - avatar Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing, University of New England

10 ways to get the most out of silent reading in schools

Children need time and space to enjoy the books they choose to read in schools. Shutterstock/wavebreakmediaReading aloud can help young children learn about new words and how to sound them. There&rsqu...

Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University - avatar Margaret Kristin Merga, Senior Lecturer in Education, Edith Cowan University

'Edible forests' can fight land clearing and world hunger at the same time

A Nepalese woman collects mushroom in a forest. Jagannath Adhikari, Author providedReducing emissions from deforestation and farming is an urgent global priority if we want to control climate change. ...

Jagannath Adhikari, Sessional Lecturer, UNSW - avatar Jagannath Adhikari, Sessional Lecturer, UNSW

Comic explainer: young disabled New Zealanders on the barriers to a better life

Our research project explored the everyday lives of disabled young people, aged from 12 to 25 years, with mobility, vision and hearing impairments. We measured and asked them about factors that enable...

Penelope Carroll, Researcher in Public Health, Massey University - avatar Penelope Carroll, Researcher in Public Health, Massey University

View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison

Scott Morrison was frank, when quizzed at a news conference during his visit to Washington, on whether he would be seeking to travel to China in the next year. “Well, you have to be invited to ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the family law inquiry - and the UN climate change summit

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor Leigh Sullivan discusses Scott Morrison’s new family law inquiry with Michelle Grattan. They also speak of the developments in the Tamil family from...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Climate explained: why don't we have electric aircraft?

CC BY-ND Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change. If yo...

Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney - avatar Dries Verstraete, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Design and Propulsion, University of Sydney

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Yvonne Allen: Eight ways to super impress someone on a first date

According to Yvonne Allen well known relationship mentor, psychologist and matchmaker, a first dat...

Picking The Right Crystal Yoni Egg: Tips And Instructions

When you are ready to pick your own crystal yoni egg, you need to decide what you will use it for...

Top 5 Tips for Paddleboarding In Whitewater

Paddleboarding can be relaxing as well as intense. If you occasionally want to do something differen...

3 Most Promising Career Occupations for Graduates in 2019

Studying in college is a great adventure which opens up lots of career opportunities. Yet, at times...