Fighting Fire with Fire

Victor Steffensen was taught cultural burning by two elders from Cape York, Dr George Musgrave (l) and Dr Tommy George (r). They were awarded honorary doctorates from James Cook University in 2005 for their work assisting Dr Peta Standley on her PhD thesis.

Peta Standley since 2011 has been Operations Manager for Natural Resource Management Cape York and she has been part of the Indigenous led co-generative action research team for the Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Research project since 2004.

Victor Steffensen has gone on to become the leading advocate for indigenous burning and has taught his craft throughout Australia and overseas.

Victor Steffensen

He was recently featured in the ABC’s Australian Story which tells us how he went out into the bush in the Cape York area and started to restore the country using fire.

At the same time he also discovered the power of video as a medium to capture the teachings of the two old men and the ABC includes some of his early footage in the show.

Bill Gammage is also featured on the show. He is the author of the Biggest Estate on Earth and studied early accounts and pictures of white man’s settlement of Australia. He discovered that the aboriginal land management was exemplary and the early settlers enjoyed parkland settings with abundant feed and wildlife. Their secret was the use of fire.

A number of RFS Volunteers are featured. Barry Child, 1st Officer at the Kuranda/Myolo Fire Brigade explains how they have adopted aboriginal burning to the benefit of the country and the animals. The large fires this summer self extinguished when they got to the areas that had been culturally burnt.

In Bundanoon RFS Inspector Chris Palmer explains how the same thing happenned in his area and shows the line in the ground where the cultural burn stopped the flanking fire. “It works” he says.

It would be much better if you read Bill Gammage’s book and the new for 2020 work of Victor Steffensen “Fire Country”. If you have read these books you will thoroughly enjoy the Australian Story: “Fighting Fire with Fire”.

If you haven’t read the books before, I’m sure you will rush out to buy them after you have seen the video on ABC iView. Here is the link

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