Controversy over “scar” trees in Kwinana

Blanche Loo (3), Marianne Mckay, Mayesha Loo (1) and elder Theresa Walley.
Blanche Loo (3), Marianne Mckay, Mayesha Loo (1) and elder Theresa Walley.

CONTROVERSY continues over trees within the Cassia Glades site in Kwinana, which are rapidly being removed for a housing project between Satterley and the Department of Housing.

Trevor Walley told the Courier this week he believed a so-called “scar tree” of Aboriginal heritage significance had been cleared from the site.

Mr Walley is the son of elder Theresa Walley.

Earlier this year, Theresa showed the Courier two other trees near Meares Avenue that she believed were scar trees, with their barks possibly removed years ago for shields or baby carriers and the like.

Scar trees can indicate Aboriginal activity in the past such as camping sites or burial grounds, Mrs Walley said.

A UWA professor who viewed the Courier’s photos of those two trees identified by Mrs Walley in March agreed that they looked like scar trees, but a report collated for Satterley ahead of the clearing found no sites within the definitions and criteria of Section 5 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Consulted traditional owners said they were unaware of any possible burial sites there.

Cassia Glades estate will be built on the block bounded by Gilmore Avenue, Meares Avenue, Wellard Road and Challenger Avenue.

In its response to further questions by the Courier, Satterley said that as of May 20:

“It is considered that the irregular patterning of the scars and regrowth on some trees at the site are not consistent with the evidence criteria defined for Aboriginal tree modification.”

On-site monitoring of the works has uncovered no material of Aboriginal heritage significance.

Theresa Walley told the Courier on Tuesday: “It’s easy to tell by the shape (of the scar), like a shield.”

But on May 25, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs reviewed photos taken by the Courier and could not see the classic indications of scar trees.

A spokesman said the scars could come from all sorts of different activity – natural causes, lightning, branch fall, bush fire, insects.

He reiterated that the department would need a formal complaint to be lodged with the department before it would be able to visit the site.