Fighting Fire with Fire – Cultural burning at Bundanon brings life back to the land

Fighting Fire with Fire – Cultural burning at Bundanon brings life back to the land

On a day topping 30 degrees in tinder-dry bush at Haunted Point, Indigenous elder Sonny Timbery is showing a group of teenage boys how to light fires.

“The knowledge is held within the landscape. Once we learn how to read that landscape and interpret that knowledge, that’s when we can apply those fire practices.”

Firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service watch as the teenagers use firesticks made from bark to ignite leaf litter that has accumulated on a ridge above the Shoalhaven River.

A Discussion on Ecological and Hazard Reduction Burning

A Discussion on Ecological and Hazard Reduction Burning

Ecological burning does not have to be completed by firefighters. Farmers have been conducting agricultural burning for a long time without strict regulation.

The right fire can be good for the environment and prevent destruction.

Private landowners, groups like Landcare and other similar organisations that care for our environment could get involved in hazard reduction and ecological burning. Local brigades could then provide a single truck with a small crew to assist. This would become less of a logistical burden to our volunteer firefighters.

You don’t need PPE for super low intensity burning (cool burns), just sensible clothing.

Cool Season Burns

Cool Season Burns

The following two films (a snap shot and an extended version) capture the Cool Season Burning Masterclass that was run on June 24, 2017. The workshop was led by Traditional Fire Knowledge Holder Rod Mason and was held on private land in the Kiewa Valley in the North East CMA region of Victoria.
Big fires can destroy everything in their path, but the right fire can prevent the destruction.

Cultural Burning – Evolving with community and Country – Canberra 10th and 11th May 2018

Cultural Burning – Evolving with community and Country – Canberra 10th and 11th May 2018

We are pleased to announce the inaugural South-east Australia Aboriginal Fire Forum to be hosted by ACT Natural Resource Management (ACT NRM) and ACT Parks and Conservation Service (ACT PCS).

The Forum, titled Cultural Burning: Evolving with community and Country, will give participants the opportunity to network, learn, and establish collaborations with others committed to cultural burning and caring for Country. The Forum will be held on Ngunnawal Country at the Ann Harding Centre, University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT from Thursday 10 to Friday 11 May 2018 and will be followed by a demonstration field day on Saturday 12 May 2018. Keynote speakers include:

Bruce Pascoe—author and historian.
Dean Freeman—ACT Fire Management Unit.
Oliver Costello—Firesticks.
Terrence Taylor—Jigija Indigenous Fire Training Program.
Victor Steffensen—Mulong Indigenous Fire Management.
To help celebrate the Forum we invite you to attend a networking dinner hosted by Steven Oliver on the evening of 10 May 2018.

Registrations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members are free. Please note that spaces are limited and are aimed at those who are available to attend the whole three days.

2018 National Indigenous Fire Workshop – NSW South Coast

2018 National Indigenous Fire Workshop – NSW South Coast

This year the workshop will be hosted by the local indigenous Mudjingaalbaraga Firesticks team and the Bundanon Trust. This is the 10th workshop and is the first time for the event to leave its birth place of Cape York and travel to honour other communities within the indigenous fire networks. Each year the firesticks network will deliver the workshop to a different state and location to share this privileged event. The aim is to maximise the traditional learning of aboriginal fire knowledge in all the different countries, and the challenges faced in strengthening healthy people and country through fire.

RFSA sponsorship recipient continues research into cultural burning

RFSA sponsorship recipient continues research into cultural burning

The RFSA is to be congratulated in the continued support of volunteer firefighter, Michelle McKemey of Guyra Rural Fire Brigade, assisting her PhD research project, Cultural Burning: Using Indigenous practice and science to apply fire strategically.

Michelle started her PhD in 2014, her study involves investigation into fire ecology and empowering land managers to apply fire as a management tool.

Working with Bambai Indigenous rangers, Michelle is examining Indigenous cultural knowledge associated with fire management, as well as, conducting ecological experiments to improve understanding of fire on the landscape.

A short film detailing Michelle’s research has recently been published by the University of New England and her research group was awarded the CSIRO DNFC (Digital National Facilities and Collections) award for Indigenous Engagement.  The RFSA is pleased to support Michelle’s valuable research.

Why wildfires have gotten worse — and what we can do about it

Why wildfires have gotten worse — and what we can do about it

Megafires, individual fires that burn more than 100,000 acres, are on the rise in the western United States, the direct result of unintentional yet massive changes we’ve brought to the forests through a century of misguided management. What steps can we take to avoid further destruction? Forest ecologist Paul Hessburg confronts some tough truths about wildfires and details how we can help restore the natural balance of the landscape.
The same can be said for Australia…

You own the fuel, but who owns the fire? – Paper by Michael Eburn

You own the fuel, but who owns the fire? – Paper by Michael Eburn

In this paper, Michael Eburn and his colleague Geoff Cary argue that the statement ‘Whoever owns the fuel owns the fire’ implies a duty on landowners to manage fuel on their land to reduce the likelihood of bushfires, however started, from spreading to neighbouring properties. However, the notion ‘Whoever owns the fuel owns the fire’ has not been analysed from a legal perspective. This paper reviews Australian law to identify who is legally responsible for fire that starts on privately owned land. We argue that the correct interpretation of existing Australian law is: ‘Whoever owns the ignition owns the fire’ – that is, liability to pay for losses caused by bushfire has always fallen on those that intentionally start a fire, not on the owner of the fuel that sustains the fire. That legal conclusion could have dramatic implications for fire management policies. It will be shown that liability for starting a prescribed burn is clear-cut whereas liability for allowing accumulated fuel loads to contribute to the spread of fire is almost unheard of. As a result, we argue that the law is pushing landowners in a direction away from the policy direction adopted by all Australian governments. After identifying the current legal position, we recommend changes to align the law with the national policy direction.

Falling koala numbers not a crisis, says expert

Falling koala numbers not a crisis, says expert

Australia’s cuddliest native animal is at the centre of fierce scientific dispute, with new research challenging conventional assumptions about koalas, their relationship with the bush and the wisdom of conservation campaigns designed to increase their numbers in the wild.

Vic Jurskis, a respected forester and ecologist and the author of a research paper to be published next week in Wildlife Research, a peer-reviewed, CSIRO journal, dubs it the great koala scam.

He says ignorance about koalas and poor management of our native forests have led to a situation where the decline of koala populations from unsustainable and unnaturally high levels is misinterpreted as a crisis.

Fire Breaks in the Form of Parklands

Fire Breaks in the Form of Parklands

Governments and fire authorities needed to consider taking a more local approach, and introduce on the outskirts of towns and cities clever landscape designs that included irrigation and green fire breaks in the form of parklands, that could work in conjunction with burn-offs to help mitigate bushfire risks.

Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.