AN agreement between the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation and Major Road Projects Victoria will see a total of 15 trees preserved along the Western Highway duplication project.
Activists have been camped at the sites of some of the trees they claim are significant since June 2018.
The 15 trees includes two trees that Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced would be saved earlier this year.
Eastern Maar's chief executive, Jamie Lowe, said discussions have been ongoing for about 12 months.
"These things take time - our values have been heard," he said.
"I think we've made it known from the beginning that the outcome we were after was to preserve and protect cultural heritage to our standard.
"We have commissioned several reports and walked over country a lot, and we feel like we came to a satisfactory point that cultural heritage will be protected."
Mr Lowe said the process involved "aligning our values as Djabwurrung people with the values of the broader community."
"Sometimes people may not see the significance of a tree because they don't have a connection to that, but it's something our people have been using forever, or in this instance 800 years," he said.
"It's been a lot of negotiations but if both parties are willing to listen and understand where the other person is coming from - well, I think we've achieved that."
It was an outcome that could tentatively be said to reflect progress for Indigenous rights.
"There have been several landmark political movements for us as Aboriginal people - some of the more recent ones being the Native Title Act in 1992 - that was a big deal," Mr Lowe said.
"But even then it's a very well known fact that cultural heritage was destroyed systematically because they wanted to destroy the evidence of Indigenous habitation.
"I think we've made a lot of progression. We've got a way to go but in 2019 things are better than what they used to be."
Mr Lowe thanked the activists who have been camped on site.
"I want to acknowledge the people that have fought for the protection of cultural heritage in this instance - albeit some people may not have got 100 per cent of what they wanted - that being a complete change of the alignment," he said.
"I think we can safely say that we got a better outcome than we would have (without the activists).
"I think they have played a major role. I respect those guys that have been camping on the front line."
However, Aunty Sandra Onus, who has been heavily involved in fighting the destruction of the trees and other sacred sites, said she was disappointed no one told the activists about the outcome of the agreement.
"At the moment we're quite disappointed, to say the least," she said.
"No one has spoken to us. We don't believe that Eastern Maar speak for the Djabwurrung people - not for myself or anyone else."
Aunty Sandra said the news that 15 trees would be preserved was not enough.
"That's not good enough it's the area itself we're concerned with - it's unnecessary removing those hills to save a couple of minutes of travel," she said.
"It's ridiculous. We're going to continue the good fight. We've gone through everything we've had to - we have good lawyers and a barrister so we're going to pursue this through every court in the land that we need to.
"We have a good chance of winning. Either way the minister needs to have a look at what she's done, and this playing two sides of Aboriginal people against Aboriginal people is not on. It's forcing us into a corner."
AN agreement between Major Road Projects Victoria and the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation will preserve a total of 15 trees from destruction during the Western Highway
MAJOR Road Projects Victoria has welcomed the support of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation for the revised route of the Western Highway upgrade.
Major Road Projects Victoria has been working closely with the Eastern Maar for more than a year to ensure that the Western Highway upgrade delivers the best possible result for the whole community.
Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation and Major Road Projects Victoria have reached an agreement on which critical trees should be retained as well as important initiatives including protection of cultural heritage in western Victoria and the inclusion of more Aboriginal people in the Western Highway project.
Major Road Projects Victoria Director of Development and Performance Andrew Williams said this outcome recognises the Aboriginal community's close relationship and spiritual association with the land.
"We're making sure the Western Highway upgrade is delivered in a way that respects the cultural values associated with the land and its Traditional Owners," Mr Williams said.
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