News & Media

CFA members share traditional burning learning

  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.
  • Moments from Len and Phil's research trip to Cape York.

By: CFA Media

Category: Environment, Planning & Research

  10.52 AM 15 September, 2016


Location: District 12 News, District 22 News, General

Views: 1343

Victorian landscapes can be burnt at lower intensities and more often, according to CFA members who recently conducted research into Aboriginal burning practices.

Euroa Fire Brigade volunteer Phil Hawkey and Alexandra Group Officer Len Timmins visited the Yalanji Nylungkul Warra community in Cape York, Queensland last month to learn how this community preserves its traditional practices, while protecting and rehabilitating the land. They joined 130 workshop participants from Queensland, Northern Territory, ACT, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania who represented traditional owner groups, fire authorities, catchment management authorities and other interest groups.

Phil, who is also one of CFA’s Vegetation Management Officers (VMO), and Len, went out on country with elders and other community leaders to watch how they burn in a traditional way.

“At one point, we were watching elders burn areas of rainforest in controlled and non-invasive ways,” Phil said. “We learnt that this community burns country annually and with low intensity to heal land previously damaged by destructive fire.”

Len was particularly impressed by the demonstration of deep yet subtle knowledge of country.

“The elders would feel the wind and check the moisture in the soil,” he said. “If it’s too dry, they don’t burn.

“While we burn into the bush, they go into the bush and burn outwards to the edge. Again, this is about keeping the fires small and low intensity and they’d end up with minimal scorch on the trees.”

Phil acknowledges that the landscape and vegetation is different up north.

“Still, we are confident our Aboriginal leaders in Victoria could rebuild this kind of practice with the same level of control and scientific knowledge as we saw in Cape York,” he said.

Phil and Len have already lined up a few opportunities to present their research and advocate for the renewal of traditional burning practices among Aboriginal communities in Victoria, including a spot at the Living with Bushfire conference next month in Lilydale.

“We will also meet with Aboriginal groups and other interested community groups to inspire them to encourage their peers to learn how they can safely and effectively burn country in their own traditional yet largely forgotten ways,” continued Phil.

“As expected, there will be some legislative and regulatory hurdles to ensure such practices are in line with laws set at local, state and federal levels; however I work with these necessary restrictions every day as part of my VMO role so I’m comfortable that I can assist various groups to comply and overcome any issues.”       

Len and Phil's trip was made possible through the support of the Emergency Services Foundation.

Last Updated: 16 September 2016