Moves are being made in the Shoalhaven to revive the ancient art of firestick teams and cultural burns.
Eight members of the Djuwin Mudjingaalbaraga Men’s Group have undertaken fireground training with the Rural Fire Service in preparation of forming a local firestick team.
Through his job, National Parks and Wildlife Services ranger Noel Webster, one of the facilitators of the program, has attended a number of workshops around the country and came up with the idea that could be adopted at a local level.
“We have developed a partnership with the Djuwin men’s group, Grand Pacific Health, RFS and NPWS to facilitate the program,” Mr Webster said.
This years workshop is being hosted by the Balnggarrawarra Gaarraay Melsonby traditional owners who are looking forward to welcoming you on-country to share their culture, management practices and this beautiful part of the world. Melsonby is right on the Normanby River 40 minutes northwest of Cooktown. The country there is amongst one of the largest collections of rock art in the world, and the Melsonby rangers take care of this country including fire management.
Mr Bangmorra role is to use his expertise in preventing exactly the types of savanna bushfires that emit an estimated two gigatonnes of carbon worldwide each year. His is a risky and difficult craft, he carries out cool-weather burns in a mosaic pattern that stop summer bushfires in their tracks and this makes him very valuable in what is increasingly called the carbon economy.
“What we see here is what I call ‘upside down’ country,” Victor Steffenson says, taking in the typical bush setting around us.
“Where you see the roots sticking in the air and the canopy on the ground; thick on the ground and thin on the top.”
He points to several of the large parent trees whose tall trunks tower above the understorey.
Some have long black scars extending from the ground to several metres above our heads while others appear completely blackened and lifeless.
“You can see from the state of them, the hot fires have come and just been way too hot,” Mr Steffenson explained.
“And when we look at the forest floor, there’s no shade from these big bloodwood trees anymore [so] eventually, if we don’t do anything, more hot fires will come and all the black wattle that’s thickening the understory will burn hot again.
“All we’re going to have is dead wood, rubbish and more black wattle coming up and less grass.”
Charlie Massy trials fire stick methods in the Monaro.
Indigenous burning utilising the plant’s adaptations to fire throughout millions of years. “Some Indigenous people believe the die-back of certain populations of eucalypts on the Monaro and other regions has occurred because of the lack of burning” he said. “Burning gets the ecology going… it kills pests which threaten plants, kills exotic seed loads, puts charcoal back into the soil and it generates the germination of native plant seed and tubers.”
Mike Lewis from Charles Darwin University talks with elder Tommy George about stingless bees and hives. Learn how traditional knowledge and cool burning can positively affect the abundance of flora and the bees.
Please Note: This video contains images and video footage of Awu Laya Elder, Dr Tommy George who passed away July 29, 2016. Dr Tommy George was the last fluent speaker of the Kuku Thaypan language. He was awarded an honorary Ph.D with his brother Dr George Musgrave, for their extensive Indigenous knowledge. He co-founded the Living Knowledge Place, Indigenous Fire Workshop, and Laura Dance Festival. His influence extends throughout Australia and the world.