Indigenous fire management editorial

March 12, 2020
Fire Management

It’s been a long and difficult summer for much of eastern and southern Australia, with the horrific bushfires devastating cultural values, communities and ecosystems. The effects of this fire season are likely to be felt for generations: from the early spring fires that burnt the mountain rainforests of south-east Queensland, to the largest forest fires ever seen in New South Wales and Victoria, through to the damage caused to special places on Kangaroo Island and in the Stirling Ranges and Great Western Woodlands of Western Australia.

The 10 Deserts Project has been reaching out to Indigenous people and communities affected by this season’s bushfires to offer support and share lessons from our work. We’ve been working with Indigenous rangers to learn from traditional practices and integrate new technologies to do right-way fire in the deserts.

For many years catastrophic fires have burnt unchecked in the deserts of Australia. They are seldom reported by the media. These wildfires burn far from the everyday lives of most Australians, but they too devastate important places for culture and biodiversity.

We have worked with Elders and rangers to develop a seasonal fire management calendar and a regional fire management strategy for the project area. The deep knowledge of local traditional owners and their connectedness to country is vital to the success of broad-scale land management programs across the deserts.

In 2020, the focus of our fire management will be on training, community planning and consultation as we target burning in areas of high risk. We will continue to engage with communities across WA, NT and SA through our project partners. We’ll also work with our partners to offer training, development and mentoring for Indigenous rangers and land managers both within the project area and beyond it.

As the climate changes, we must adapt our practices to improve the health of our landscapes. Even though country is different, Indigenous people share a common history of fire management across the Australian landscape. Their fire practice holds the key to landscape health in many areas.

By working together, we can build the capacity of desert mobs to look after country, counter common threats, and build sustainable incomes for the future.

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