The History Council of Victoria welcomes the order of the Supreme Court to temporarily halt works on the Western Highway.
This issue has been a protracted one and there are multiple narratives. For its part, the Victorian Government has been at pains to point out that its extensive consultations have led to major compromises over the road’s route and the protection of many trees of undoubted cultural significance.
However, the strength of opposition to other tree-felling and the debate about specific protections are reason enough for the government to pause and rethink. The decision of the Supreme Court is an opportunity for the government to do so.
While there are fundamental differences between the issues, community anger has also been generated by the coincidence of the tree-felling and the recent destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the subject of a Senate enquiry and widespread international condemnation.
We are at a particularly significant moment in the history of recognition of unique Australian Indigenous heritage in many forms, including objects, spaces and languages. The History Council urges the State government to reinforce the advances it has made in other domains of Indigenous reconciliation.
30 October 2020
The History Council is the peak body for history in the State, with the objective of furthering historical literacy and awareness and inspiring public engagement with the past and its importance for understanding the world today. The council includes representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.
This response is supported by a majority of individual board members but does not necessarily represent the views of all of the institutions they represent.