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Two "ghost gum" trees that were revered by many in Australia after being made famous by Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been found toppled over and burned — victims of a suspected arsonist.

The trees, in the outback near Alice Springs, were due to soon be put on Australia's national heritage register, The Guardian says. It adds that:

"Namatjira [who died in 1959] is credited with bringing the native trees — which are featured in Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and named for their white bark that glows in moonlight — to wider public consciousness as a symbol of Australian identity."

Susan McCulloch, author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, tells The Sydney Morning Herald that the destruction of the trees is an "appalling and a tragic act of cultural vandalism."

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