REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: How one felled tree can say so much

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SHOW UP: Ballarat's Sissy Austin has long been vocal on Indigenous issues in the region. Her voice has started capturing attention worldwide.

SHOW UP: Ballarat's Sissy Austin has long been vocal on Indigenous issues in the region. Her voice has started capturing attention worldwide.

One felled tree in a district called Dobie captured international attention and shock about a fortnight ago. A holding pattern over this area, a little out of Ballarat, Victoria, on the highway to Adelaide, will break this week when a Victorian Supreme Court injunction for road works lapses.

The tree is one Djab Wurrung Peoples claim has cultural significance as a directions tree, sacred to Indigenous women.

Only, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation claims the Fiddleback tree removed had been deemed not culturally significant after extensive surveying from cultural heritage experts. EMAC represents 12 Indigenous families, including Djab Wurrung women and is one the Victorian government recognises as the legal Aboriginal representative body for County on which this tree was felled.

Some commentators have likened the confusion in the fall-out to a family fight among the Djab Wurrung.

As we still revel in NAIDOC Week celebrations, this tree is a reminder on the complex layers we still face in reconciliation and, as we move forward, in treaty.

Ararat Advertiser has been covering the many voices on this evolving issue and protest well. But when there are so many voices, how do we make progress - like the need for highway duplication - and ensure we are listening to the right voices? How do we ensure everyone is heard?

Djab Wurrung fighting woman and protester Sissy Austin says it is hard to see a way to move forward to improve Aboriginal rights in Victoria on a "broken base".

Ms Austin stood down from her elected role on the First People's Assembly of Victoria, an historic body working on the framework for treaty. She was hurt, frustrated and felt unheard when the tree was cut down.

Her actions drew supporters from across the world, including an American street artist who painted Ms Austin's face in a mural for inspiration and to draw awareness to Indigenous issues.

Ms Austin still believes progress on the Western Highway project and First People's Assembly of Victoria, setting the framework for treaty, can be made if the government slows down and listens to people on the ground.

She admits this is also where issues get most complex.

Conservationists say the protest generated great attention on social media but was a "great disservice" for all Victorians. Partnerships and respect had been built up between conversationalists, traditional owners and government.

Ms Austin and other Djab Wurrung protesters argue government protesters work against Indigenous people who, at the end of the day, were family.

Her advice? We all need to listen to each other more.

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