CHIEF executive of the Royal Women's Hospital has expressed public support for the birthing trees involved in the Djab Wurrung protest.
Sue Matthews has written a letter to Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan expressing the hospital's support for Indigenous women.
The letter is dated October 21 and states that "the Women's would like to acknowledge the Victorian government's commitment to redesign the road to retain a number of birthing trees.
"The Women's is committed to improving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, children and families ... the Women's recognises the cultural and spiritual significance of the Djab Wurrung birthing trees."
Dr Matthews said: "The Women's recognises the cultural and spiritual significance of the birthing trees to the Djab Wurrung people and the importance of Birthing on Country.
"Ensuring the government is aware of our support for the birthing trees is an important part of the Women's commitment to respecting and promoting culturally safe and inclusive practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
"The Women's supports appropriate consultation with the Djab Wurrung people. It's important that the voices of Traditional Owners are heard."
Major Road Projects Victoria is continuing to work on the agreed upon 3.8 kilometre stretch of highway in Buangor.
"We're pleased to have reached an agreement that allowed for major works to begin on this urgently needed safety upgrade," a spokeswoman said.
Construction of the Western Highway duplication begun in October 2019 within an approximate 3.85 km section of the road between Dobie Rd and Langi Ghiran Picnic Ground Road, adjacent to the existing highway.
This follows an agreement between Major Road Projects Victoria and Traditional Owners, who have been challenging the Federal Government's decision not to grant heritage protection in relation to areas impacted by the Western Highway duplication project.
A key point in understanding the conflict is in recognising that although Traditional Owners involved in the ongoing protest actions are party to that agreement, not all of those activists camped along the highway are.
However, Major Road Projects Victoria confirmed there has been no protest action since those works began.
The agreement allows for major works to take place within the agreed section.
Early work includes installing no-go fencing to protect areas of significant vegetation, environmental surveying, soil testing and establishing a site compound.
Major work on the agreed section of the approved alignment includes earthworks, drainage work and widening the existing highway, involving the use of pavement-laying machinery. This involves establishing turning lanes on the Western Highway so vehicles can safely access the site.
Construction activity also involves tree trimming and removal.
The trees flagged for removal in this 3.85km section have not been identified by the government as culturally significant, and Major Road Projects Victoria will only be removing trees directly impacted by the works.
Any trees removed that contain hollows and are potential fauna habitat will be kept on site, with a zoologist to monitor and relocate wildlife where needed.
Seed will also be collected from suitable sources, and we are working with environmentalists to identify how timber can be reused. This includes the placement of seeding tree heads back on site, reuse of root balls for resnagging waterways and bollards for Parks Victoria.
Substantive works on the rest of the approved 12.5km alignment between Buangor and Ararat won't start until a court decision is made on the appeal. A decision is expected by December 1.
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- Western Highway delay impacts not clear
- Federal minister denies tree protection
- State government, Louise Staley welcome highway decision
- Western Highway duplication fight to continue after federal decision
- Emergency services want Western Highway duplication
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