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By Robert Crawford – 13 Apr 2017

Nowra mens group learn about cultural burns

NEW ROLE: Aaron Cowan, Joel Deaves and Adrian Smith put out a fire under the guidance of Greenwell Point RFS member Daniel Palmer. Other course participants included Jacob Morris, Russ Brown, Adrian Webster, Lawrence Vincent and Dean Scott pictured with Djuwin Mudjingaalbaraga Men’s Group’s Stephen Taylor and David Carpenter, National Parks and Wildlife Services ranger Noel Webster and RFS members Paul Gleeson (Shoalhaven Group Captain), Phil Paterson (environmental officer), Chris Palmer (District Officer) and Alex Frew (Cunjurong Point brigade).

For thousands of years Aborigines conducted bushland burns.

These “cultural burns”  were a way of rejuvenating the native bushland.

Moves are being made in the Shoalhaven to revive the ancient art of firestick teams and cultural burns.

Over the past week 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.

“The participants have done basic firefighting training with the RFS so they are qualified as firefighters and have an understanding of how fire may behave on a fire ground.

“This weeklong course has allowed them to develop their practical skills and knowledge.

“They learnt about fire behaviour, became familiar with it. Where and how to conduct traditional burns, safety, risk management and how to contain fires.”

A traditional cultural burn workshop will be held in Nowra in early May.

“Participants will learn the traditional practices and burning regimes,” Mr Webster said.

“Then they can apply those skills and knowledge at a local level.”

He said “burning” or “treating”  some country by fire can bring the landscape back to health.

“There is a lot of conversation about burn offs and hazard reduction in the wider community,” he said.

Cultural burns will be carried out on local Aboriginal Land Council  property, with the aim of bringing the land “back to life”.

“There are lots of areas that are degraded and do have a build up of fire fuel,” Mr Webster said.

“It is about taking those old cultural practises and that knowledge and adapting them with new ideas.”– Participant Russ Brown 

“Others have weeds that need to be controlled.

“By culturally burning that land it is hoped it will encourage native flora and fauna back into those areas.

“After the fires the team can also go in and help rejuvenate the areas.”

The Firestick workshop is open to anyone and will be held on May 10-11.

A workshop will be held at the Bomaderry Bowling Club on Wednesday, May 10 followed by a cultural burn at Falls Creek the following day.

“It is the first time such a program has been held locally. It is only in its infancy. But it has allowed community members to upskill,” he said.

“We are hoping this may even lead to a few of the brigades gaining new members and may even be an income source for the men’s group.”

Participant Russ Brown said the course was a good starting point.

“It let us learn about the skills we will need,” he said.

“I was well aware of the cultural burning practices.

“It is about taking those old cultural practises and that knowledge and adapting them with new ideas.”

The Djuwin Mudjingaalbaraga Men’s Group meets every second Friday between 10am and noon upstairs at the Shoalhaven City Arts Centre and Regional Gallery in Berry Street, Nowra.

Co-ordinator David Carpenter said the group was open to all men.

“It is a support group for men,” he said “it is not just for indigenous men, it’s for anyone.

“We have regular guest speakers who talk on a wide range of topics. It is drug and alcohol free and we have talks on both those subjects as well as domestic related issues, legal issues, and living a healthy lifestyle.

“It is also a place where the community can raise issues.

Djuwin has been conducting meetings for eight months and previously operated as Gather for a Yarn.

The story Moves to form Shoalhaven firestick team first appeared on South Coast Register.

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