How can we support Indigenous-led fire management?

By Kate Cranney

26 February 2020

2 minute read

Two men light a fire in the bush

We’re working with the Ngadju people to help empower their efforts to re-engage in the management of Western Australia’s Great Western Woodlands. This picture shows a fire training day Buldania Rocks. (Image: Suzanne Prober, CSIRO)

Fire has influenced the way Indigenous people live with their land for millennia. Over this time, Indigenous Australians have skilfully used fire to manage their environments. These practices are referred to as Indigenous cultural burning.

Indigenous and ranger groups have initiated and engaged in a diverse array of Indigenous burning activities and partnerships. From the Tiwi Islands to Tasmania, we’ve been supporting cultural burning partnerships, projects and activities for more than a decade.

So, how can Australia support Indigenous cultural burning knowledge and practices in future fire management?

Here are three key ways we’ve supported effective cross-cultural partnerships to manage Australia’s landscape through fire.

1. Caring for Country through fire

We support projects that use Indigenous understandings of country and western science. These projects help to look after plants, animals and entire habitats. For example, we supported the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay (Arakwal) to do their first cultural burn in 30 years. Their cultural burning helps to look after the special plants in the Arakwal National Park, including the yellow Byron Bay orchid.

2. Protocols for non-Indigenous partners to support Indigenous landscape burning

We’ve worked with Indigenous leaders and fire management groups to develop six protocols. These protocols can guide non-indigenous partnerships in how they support Indigenous landscape burning activities.

3. Accounting for the many benefits of Indigenous landscape burning

Indigenous fire management practices can provide win-win outcomes for Indigenous people and the environment. Understanding the benefits achieved from these activities and partnerships is important. They can help to maximise the multiple social, cultural and environmental benefits of appropriate landscape burning.

This post is a short summary. Read the full feature article on ECOS: Three practical ways to support Indigenous landscape burning in Australia