Local supporters call for kindness
Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.
LOCAL Djab Wurrung supporters have expressed their concern towards the hateful comments and racist discussion in Ararat, following the police activity at the Djab Wurrung Embassy this week.
Despite a strong majority showing support for the arrests and tree felling, local Casey Baxter said she has mustered up the courage to call out the disrespectful behaviour to replace it with kindness.
“It's been a really emotional time for me, starting with the feelings of grief and devastation that the direction tree has been lost and then watching the response of our community,” she said.
“It's a real cross-section of the community that are coming out and enjoying seeing First Nations people in pain, and I really struggle with that. And I keep coming back to that it must be fear.
“To think that many people actually fully believe the things that they're saying, that violent repercussions for the people that are now my friends, I just can't live in a town where that's the majority.”
Mrs Baxter first visited the Embassy two years ago and has publicly shown strong support for the supporters, attending a small peaceful demonstration in Ararat last year.
Ten locals and their children walked up and down Barkly Street in August of 2019 to show their support for the Djab Wurrung Embassy and to push for less prejudice.
“It was really heartening to be surrounded by people that felt the same as I did, because at times, I've really struggled with the presence of online comments from locals here that have been quite hate-filled, angry, fear-based and racist,” she said.
“Obviously, I'm not indigenous, I don't have that connection, but I did have a really moving experience sitting under those beautiful trees.
“I do wonder if, the people that have the other opinion, like myself, are not commenting because it's a bit scary to face up to [people]… threatening violence, not just against trees, but also against people.”
Mrs Baxter believes that her view is the minority in Ararat, but she is calling on locals to put aside their views on the highway duplication, and to instead respect all views without hate.
“My message to the Ararat community would be to come together in kindness. And regardless of what your opinion or thoughts are on when, or if or where this road should be built, to be able to take a step back and listen to other people's viewpoint,” she said.