The Directions Trees Are More Than Just Trees


The directions tree, as Djab Wurrung man Zellanach Djab Mara explains, comes from a time when mobs would mix a child’s placenta with the seeds of a tree, so it would grow with the child and become a place of significant spiritual value. In the present day, many Djab Wurrung people believe such trees carry their bloodline and act as guardians. Following the felling of this specific tree, Aboriginal woman and Greens senator Lidia Thorpe emphasised the importance of such areas in carrying the spirits of Indigenous ancestors.

When we talk about sacredness within life – or any kind of sacredness – we’re talking about this particular place. It’s a particular place where women give birth. It’s a place where women’s business is conducted. And that’s what we talk about: where women prepare for the birth of children.

The Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy was established on 18 June last year to stop the destruction of the sacred trees and the land they’re situated on, as the site holds much significance for the local people. The sacred trees on this land include an 800-year-old birthing tree that has seen over 50 generations born inside the hollow of its trunk, as well as a 350-year-old directions tree that’s been shaped and resembles a woman. This area is part of a song line, and as the embassy asserts “the series of sacred trees and artefacts” found there “prove its significance”. And the sovereign people gathered on the land aren’t about to allow any bulldozers to move in and destroy their tens of thousands of years’ old culture.

VicRoads and Major Road Projects Victoria have plans to construct a four lane strip of highway between the towns of Ararat and Buangor in southwestern Victoria, as part of its $672 million Western Highway duplication project. This basically means that the Andrews government proposes to build this part of the road next to a pre-existing section of the highway to cut down on three minutes of driving time, and in doing so, destroy around 3,000 trees, over 200 of which are sacred to the local First Nations peoples.

Currently, the project is on hold until the outcome of a mid-April Federal Court hearing is delivered, which involves the Djab Wurrung people appealing the decision of federal environment minister Melissa Price to let the project go ahead, as she’s decided the area isn’t of significance.

In mid-March, an application was submitted under section 9 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Act 1984 (Cth), which requires the minister to issue an emergency declaration to stop a project if it poses a “serious and immediate threat” to a “significant Aboriginal area”.

And it will destroy not just one particular tree, but many directions trees. After a birth, the father would have the placenta and the mother would have the seed from the bush tucker. They would go and plant a tree, which is called a directions tree. That tree would then represent that baby. And that baby would grow in conjunction with that tree. So, that’s there for that child to go back to and reflect on their life. However that tree grows is a direct reflection of how that child is growing – that child’s life.

Our ignorance, indifference and occidental self-absorption continues to destroy the culture, hopes, and memories of Indigenous Australians. In the last 200 years have we really changed?