Tuesday, 23 February 2021
I rise to draw this place's attention to one of the most beautiful places in the world—
An honourable senator: Queensland.
the land of the Gunnai people, which is in East Gippsland, thanks, Senator. My people, the Gunnai people, are the traditional owners of what is now called Gippsland. It is told that the first Gunnai came down from the north-west mountains with a canoe on their head. We are the people of the mountains, of the seas and of the forests. Our people are not from country; we are of country. This is why it pains me that the ancient forests on Gunnai country in East Gippsland are under threat from clear-fell logging. To our people, these are not just forests. The forest, from the roots of the trees to the tips of their leaves, is our mother.
Today I want to thank the land defenders who have held off the desecration of country for almost four weeks up on the Errinundra Plateau. Our friends and allies are putting their bodies on the line, as we have for the last 200 years, to stop the planned logging of one of the last unburnt areas of forest on country. This country is a refuge for our wildlife, including our sacred totems and creator spirits. They need this land to survive. The Victorian state government's own environmental department said this was an important habitat and that logging is a dangerous threat to our state's endangered animals, yet the Victorian state government agency VicForests do what they want—no consent, just go in and clear the land.
But there are good people who know this and are calling it out. Yesterday these land defenders also came to the state government's doorstep. They set up a tree sit in the Treasury Gardens as a peaceful protest, speaking up for the Errinundra forest because the forest can't speak. I'm thankful for everyone who acts in solidarity with our people, who also is caring for country and who joins us to say, 'Enough!' when the bulldozers move in. The traditional country of our people must not be desecrated. There is no consent. The climate science is clear that we must leave carbon stores intact. The ecological science is clear that we need to halt the extinction crisis. Yet the desecration of country, because of logging, still happens.
Now the pockets of forests left untouched by the fire are being logged and destroyed. How much more do you want to take? This destructive colonialism is killing us. It's killing everybody. And it's killing our planet's life support systems. Those trees—the clean water, the oxygen they produce—are what keep us all alive. Can you imagine what kind of country we would have if you just listened to us, if you just took a moment and heard what we have been saying? Can you imagine what kind of country we could have if you relied on our traditional knowledge, our science? We have been caring for country for thousands and thousands of generations. We know what we're talking about.
How can the Andrews government be negotiating a treaty in Victoria while we're still logging it? It's not just the Victorian Labor government with blood on its hands; this government is part of the problem too. The regional forest agreements that allow logging are signed by the Premier of Victoria and the Prime Minister. The Victorian Labor government and this federal government have together announced a major event review of the bushfires. There is no doubt we need a review, but the logging must stop. And this major event review must be led by traditional owners. We need assurance that First Nations' voices will be heard in this process. We need to make the transition out of native forest logging now—not in 10 years, now!