Calls are growing to scrap the bulldozing of trees for a Victorian highway upgrade but the state government is refusing to budge.
Hundreds of activists rallied outside Victoria's parliament on Tuesday in a bid to save the trees, which are considered sacred by indigenous people.
Activists have set up camp at the site, between Buangor and Ararat, over concerns about Aboriginal heritage.
Speaking at Tuesday's rally, former Greens MP Lidia Thorpe said the loss of the 800-year-old Djap Warrung trees amounted to cultural genocide.
Destroying the trees "destroys us", the Gunnai-Kurnai and Gunditjmara woman added.
READ MORE: PREMIER TALKS WESTERN HIGHWAY PROTEST
It would also jeopardise any treaty negotiations between traditional owners and the Victorian government, protesters claimed.
Matilda Hiscock was among the crowd and told AAP the highway upgrade would only save people three minutes' travel time.
But Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan is standing firm, saying the government has listened to and negotiated with relevant Indigenous groups.
She also stressed the highway upgrade was important for safety, referencing six deaths and 100 crashes along the stretch of the road in the past 11 years.
"We've been very careful to listen and respect the views and voices of the Indigenous groups who represent those communities," Ms Allan said.
She added the government had worked with the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation to save 17 significant trees, before the group gave the project the go-ahead.
But construction has been delayed by activists camped at the site since June 2018.
They were told to leave last month.
After rallying outside parliament, city protesters marched to the Coroners Court to support the inquest into the police custody death of Aboriginal woman Tanya Day.
The 55-year-old Yorta Yorta grandmother died in December 2017 after falling and hitting her head five times in a Castlemaine police cell.