Traditional Owners fear significant sites surrounding the scene of the 1834 Pinjarra Massacre will be destroyed by the proposed construction of a bridge due to commence later this year.
According to Main Roads the Pinjarra Town Centre Heavy Haulage Deviationwill provide an alternative route for heavy vehicles around the town to reduce congestion and improve safety on central town streets.
Stage 1 of the project will include construction of a 1.5km road from Greenlands Road-South Western Highway roundabout to Pinjarra-Williams Road and the construction of a bridge over the Murray River.
Bindjareb Noongar women Aunty Louise Hansen said the bridge site was too close to the scene of the Pinjarra Massacre, where her family were among those attacked by soldiers 188 years ago.
“Our ancestors were camped down here,” she said.
“They were set upon by soldiers and a heap of them were massacred. Some people gave it the title of battle, but there was no battle.
“Not only did they kill the young men and some of the oldies, they also killed women and children.”
Ms Hansen said the river just east of the massacre site was home to sacred sites and several other significant sites.
Her daughter Alice Kearing said a site further down the highway would be better.
“Don’t drag it too close to our heritage, where our cultural business took place,” she said.
Ms Kearing said that a public meeting with Traditional Owners about the bridge site had rejected the plan.
A Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage spokesperson said applications under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 had not been made for Stages 1 and 2 of the project.
“The alignment has not been finalised and alternative alignments can still be explored,” the spokesperson said.
“Following consultation with the community… the location of the current proposal is further south than the initial design.”
A spokesperson for the Shire of Murray a local referendum heavily backed the project.
The case for no provided on the ballot, alongside the case for yes, did not mention the proximity of any proposed site to the site of the Pinjarra massacre.
Of 4109 people who voted in the referendum, 3465 voted yes.
In April WA Greens MP Brad Pettitt tabled questions in parliament asking Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti to guarantee the safety of the Pinjarra Massacre site.
Responses are expected when parliament resumes this month.