By Claire Ottaviano
A STRIKING blue painted tree in Gooseberry Hill National Park painted without approval may have a very important message, but the manner in which it was painted may put the tree under threat.
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA) said although there were no current plans to remove the tree, an assessment would be conducted to determine if it would have an impact on the environment, visual amenity, health of the tree and visitor safety.
Blue painted trees are fast becoming a well-known and welcomed sight across Australia in the fight against suicide.
The Blue Tree Project’s mission is to break the stigma and start conversations on mental health by spreading the paint and spreading the message ‘it’s OK to not be OK’.
The tree at the top of Statham’s Quarry sparked debate this week when a member of the public questioned why the tree had been painted in a national park and without DBCA’s approval.
Blue Tree Project founder and chief executive Kendall Whyte said the foundation had more than 600 registered blue trees, but, and in the case of this tree, there were many more that were not recorded.
“We do have guidelines and recommendations on our website making sure people are getting involved in an appropriate way because we don’t want to detract from what we’re trying to do and promote,” she said.
“Someone has painted this tree in memory of someone lost or out of worry that it could happen to someone else.
“They want people to see the tree and see it as a symbol of hope so people don’t do that.”
The Blue Tree Project started in WA in memory of Jayden Whyte, who took his own life at 29-years-old in 2018.
Jayden and his friend Tjarda Tiedeken once painted a dead tree blue as a practical joke on the families private property in Mukinbudin.
The blue tree now holds a new meaning for the Whyte family who hope the trees will act as a visual reminder to check in with a loved one or a friend having a blue day.
It is not known when the tree was painted but Ms Whyte said they became aware of the tree in March after being tagged in an Instagram post.
Although trees are typically painted on private properties, private land such as local and State government land requires approval.
The City of Kalamunda has been involved in the painting of three trees in its jurisdiction, two in Ray Owen reserve and one at Lions Lookout, Lesmurdie.
“We are open to people getting involved of their own accord and that’s how the project has gotten up so quickly with trees painted on private properties, businesses, schools and more,” Ms Whyte said.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline’s 24-hour telephone crisis line on 13 11 14.