"These beautiful trees are a symbol of what was here - survival, beauty and endurance."
Just outside of the Daylesford township, a section of road lined with tall Manna Gums has been dedicated to those impacted by the Frontier Wars in the region more than 200 years ago.
Established to acknowledge the suffering of Aboriginal people in Hepburn Shire, the Manna Gums Frontier Wars Memorial Avenue, unveiled on Monday, is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
At a ceremony, Hepburn Shire Council's Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, said the shire had several Avenues of Honour - at Daylesford, Dean, Drummond and Kingston and a commemorative tree at Clunes.
"In Australia, Avenues of Honour were first planted after WWI to honour the lives, service, sacrifice and suffering of those who fought in conflicts and so we could come after to remember and acknowledge those whose lives were lost," she said.
"Recently Avenues of Honour were expanded to include commemorative trees."
On a day of historical significance, members of the council and the Traditional Owners of the land, the Dja Dja Wurrung, gathered to acknowledge the impact of the Australian Frontier Wars.
The term 'Frontier Wars' has been used by historians to describe the violent conflicts between Aboriginal people and white settlers following British colonisation of Australia.
The conflicts occurred right around Australia - including on Dja Dja Wurrung land - from January 1788, with the landing of the first fleet, until the 1930s.
The memorial has been signposted on the Daylesford-Malmsbury road, not far from the Daylesford Avenue of Honour.
The project was the idea of local Aboriginal woman, Erica Higgins, who sits on the council's Reconciliation Action Plan committee. When voiced, the idea was supported by the committee.
Hepburn Shire Council's Reconciliation Officer, Donna Spiller took the report to council and it was adopted immediately.
"Right from the start we thought about how to engage Dja Dja Wurrung people in the project so that it included language in the naming and graphics and signage itself," Ms Spiller said.
"It's really significant for a lot of people because we believe it is the first in Australia to acknowledge the Frontier Wars."
For many years Ms Higgins gained a greater understanding of the history of the area through Edgar Morrison - whose books spoke of massacre, murder and forcible removal of the Dja Dja Wurrung and others - first on their lands, then to the Franklinford Protectorate and then to Corranderk.
She said the books were written in the 60s, when many believed the Dja Dja Wurrung people were "extinct and that the past would be buried and forgotten".
She also learnt of the events of settlement from Cultural Officer Jim Remedio.
"Both of these men taught me the history of settlement and the violence and indifference that was perpetrated in the name of progress."
Ms Higgins said the time of the Frontier Wars was a time when racism ruled.
"While we can now openly speak of this painful part of our shared history, we need to remind ourselves that this did in fact happen, to not only men who were warriors defending their land, their rights, their laws and their families but that this was also perpetrated on women and children."
She said the memorial was a significant step forward in acknowledging the history of the area, one that is "pivotal" in Australian history.
"To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, this is one small step for Hepburn Shire and a giant leap for Australia.
"By acknowledging the wrongs and setting up a place for us to remember and reflect we are starting to work together in a way that hasn't happened before.
"These beautiful trees are a symbol of what was here, survival, beauty and endurance."
Cr Hewitt said the memorial would be an ongoing reminder to those both past and present generations that the traditional owners of the land, the Dja Dja Wurrung, were subject to violence.
"Some were killed, some were moved on and all were dispossessed," Cr Hewitt said.
"In recognising and honouring that suffering and loss in the same spirit that the community does in our other Avenues of Honour we acknowledge the hurt, commit to truth telling and say that we are sorry for the hurt and loss and work together towards a future that shares both the knowledge of and the prosperity of this land."
While a step forward, Ms Higgins said there was still work to be done.
"We have a huge amount of work ahead of us together as part of our efforts towards truth telling and healing.
"I hope that we can see the courage required to look at our ugly past, to see the hurt and pain that was inflicted and is still felt and needs to be openly acknowledged to heal."
She said there were many ways to heal, with Hepburn Shire demonstrating one way and hoped other areas would follow.
IN OTHER NEWS
Chief Executive of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Rodney Carter, commended the council and community for achieving a "first".
"The Frontier Wars Memorial Avenue affords a greater recognition to our fallen Ancestors and helps us all heal," he said.
"The significance and uniqueness of that cannot be underestimated. To shout that loudly to the nation so others can hopefully follow in your stead for calling out the truth.
"For my ancestors, their backyard was settled. If we think how we'd feel today as modern people, for somebody to come in and take responsibility for our backyard and come in and intrude in through our backdoor into our home, that's a real thing that happened to my people, to my ancestors."
The council is looking to install an interpretive board in Daylesford so people can read about the Frontier Wars and then drive out to see the memorial.
Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: