Credits where credit’s due for frequent fires program

This image shows Kieran Bangmorra sitting on a hill overlooking the Horizontal Falls near Derby in Australia’s northwest.
Kieran Bangmorra overlooking the Horizontal Falls – Picture: Colin Murty

Kieran Bangmorra (pictured above) sitting on a hill overlooking the Horizontal Falls near Derby in Australia’s Northwest. He uses his extensive knowledge of burning off to prevent savanna wildfires that add to climate change.

The Australian December 3, 2016

This image is a photograph of Paige Taylor
By Paige Taylor

In the rocky hills and grasslands of Australia’s remote northwest, above the azure waters of one of the world’s natural wonders, ­Kieran Bangmorra is playing his part in fighting climate change. The 21-year-old has a job that few imagined would even exist 10 years ago when he was in primary school in the remote West Australian port town of Derby.
He works on the most inaccessible stretches of his traditional Dambimangari lands inland from the breathtaking Horizontal Falls, known locally as Garaanngaddim. He creates carbon credits, many of them for Qantas passengers who decide to tick a box and pay a few dollars extra to “offset” emissions from their flight.

The price varies, from $1 for a Melbourne-Sydney flight or $6.90 for Sydney-Singapore. When travellers choose to direct their credits to an Australian project, the money comes here to the Kimberley wilderness where Mr Bangmorra and about 50 other rangers from four language groups are part of the Kimberley Fire Abatement Project that began in 2014. So far, travellers have “offset” 250,000 tonnes of carbon using credits from the Kimberley.

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. It is a growing business; overall, 50,000 Qantas passengers a month opt to offset their flights on carbon abatement projects globally. The number is growing at a rate of about 10 per cent a year.

Qantas’s business relationship with the Dambimangari and three other indigenous groups across the Kimberley is part of a bigger trend monitored by the Business Council of Australia. While new data from the council’s latest survey on indigenous engagement shows strong growth in the number of indigenous Australians employed in the private sector, it also paints a picture of prosperous partnerships with Aboriginal-owned organisations. Companies represented by the council invested more than $355 million with indigenous enterprises in the past year, according to council chief executive Jennifer Westacott. “What is really striking about this latest report is the breadth and scale of commitment,” she said. “It shows companies working with indigenous communities in a wide variety of ways across Australia to create economic and employment opportunities.”

She said 90 per cent of member companies had indigenous engagement activities, up from 30 per cent.

Kimberley Land Council chief executive Nolan Hunter said Kimberley Aborigines were leading the world with burning methods, but the work was expensive. Indigenous groups were looking for ways to interest the private sector in a “premium product” that included carbon credits but also the varied work that rangers did to protect and monitor native animals, record rock art and eradicate feral cats.

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