INDIGENOUS woman Amanda has been living at the activist campsite on the Western Highway at Buangor for more than a year.
The campsite - known as the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy and established in June 2018 - is one of three sites along the proposed Western Highway duplication project route.
The camps are on VicRoads and Ararat Council land but that ownership is also being challenged.
The highway is just metres from the campsite and the sound of car and truck horns - some beeping in support, and others in anger - constantly punch through the cold air.
Many activists have come and gone from the site but Amanda, who asked her surname be withheld for fear of backlash from the community, has been there since the start.
"My intention was to only come up here for a few days ... but we're just obligated to be here culturally, you know? Even though it's not my country," she said.
Amanda said it was hard to understand life at the campsite without experiencing it directly.
"Everything is an effort," she said. "You have to go and get your firewood. You have to make sure you're cooking before it gets dark. And all the field mice come out at night, too. Last year ... it was freezing and you'd walk around wet all day long and you'd get into bed and it was even wet in bed.
"I couldn't stand the cold any longer so I got a little kettle barbecue and put some coals in it and put it in the tent - not thinking straight because of how cold I was. Twenty minutes later, I felt achy and ill and all of a sudden I had a fit."
A sense of solidarity with all Indigenous clans pushed Amanda to keep fighting against the highway duplication route.
"I think culture has been so smashed that ... yeah, we should know where our roots come from, but it doesn't matter these days because it's all so far gone that we've got to save it from somewhere," she said.
"There's a lot to lose - especially for (Traditional Owner and activist Zellenach Gurnaikurnai) being descended from the Djab Wurrung people, who have barely lived on because of all the massacres and fleeing to neighbouring tribes. There's a lot of pressure on him because if this goes ... that's the end of the line."
Mr Gurnaikurnai said the car horns were constant.
"We get beeping horns at all hours of the night," he said.
"People drive past screaming out their window and being racist ... all we're trying to do is protect something that's sacred to us."
Amanda also talked about living under the branches of a birthing tree on the edge of the campsite.
Traditional Owners say this piece of land is women's country - somewhere pregnant mothers went to give birth, while their female relatives provided support.
"A woman always sacrifices herself for everybody else, like her over there - the tree. She feeds everyone else around her before she feeds herself," Amanda said.
"She would have seen a lot of massacres. To have lived 800 years ... that's resilience."
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