Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 21-Dec-2016 | Comments
STANDING two 600-year-old scar trees at Ulumbarra is the culmination of more than two years of work, and links two multi-million-dollar projects, and indigenous culture to European infrastructure.
The Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation identified the trees – a river red gum and a yellowbox – during a cultural heritage survey of land subject to works building the $86 million Ravenswood Interchange.
“These two trees were just too good to be lost and let go and so bringing them here keeps their spirits alive,” corporation chairman Trent Nelson said.
Mr Nelson was involved in the survey and remembers seeing the trees in site.
The theatre was being built at the time, Mr Nelson said, and the trees were an opportunity to put an indigenous handprint on the landmark building.
It was apt – the theatre’s name was the indigenous term for gathering place and a musical by the same name featuring indigenous stories was the opening night’s performance.
The trees, dead for a couple of hundred years but destined to stand for at least 100 more now they are preserved and upright, are an example of what Mr Nelson calls the conservation of “tangible cultural heritage”.
Their presence is an opportunity to pass on the intangible stories.
“A lot of that is from the tongue,” Mr Nelson said referring to spoken stories.
The initial survey also identified more than 500 other artefacts which will be buried where they were found, or protected in other ways if they were found in the path of the Calder Highway.
The Ravenswood area is rich in indigenous cultural history and in a neat symbolic synergy, the highway reflects the trade routes of elders which were important links with neighbours.
Mr Nelson thinks the bark removed from the trees that formed the scars was likely used to make shields or to carry seeds or ochre.
Where Europeans have tended to have a permanent solution for trees, indigenous people were able to use the bark but so as not to kill the tree.
As it turns out, to chop down a centuries-old tree, preserve it for years and then return it to standing position without roots is a highly
VicRoads was the project manager of the task, advised by the Dja Dja Wurrung and helped out by the City of Greater Bendigo council, whose Golden Square depot was the storage facility for the fragile trees.
Specialist arboriculture contractor Enspec was hired to build the trees their own metal roots and over two days, lift the trees into place with cranes, and concrete them into place.
Speaking at a welcome ceremony on Tuesday, Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards said the trees brought to life the culture and practices of the Dja Dja Wurrung in a way that everyone can appreciate and enjoy.