News & Media

HQ staff learn about Aboriginal culture & history

  • Shane Charles and Charmaine Sellings

By: Angela Cook

Category: Community Safety, Partnerships, People

  12.33 PM 13 April, 2015

Location: CFA HQ News

Views: 1729

The Boardroom at CFA Headquarters was transformed last Thursday 9 April 2015 (and also a few weeks prior on Friday 27 March) to offer CFA HQ staff an opportunity to participate in a Koori Cultural Awareness session.

As part of CFA’s Koori Inclusion Action Plan, cultural awareness sessions are being delivered to some CFA members in various locations across the state. It was CFA HQ's turn to experience the program which is designed to give CFA members a better appreciation of Aboriginal culture and history and the relevance to CFA’s business.

The three-hour sessions provided some insight into Aboriginal traditional culture, Aboriginal history, colonisation, cultural heritage and traditional burning. The way the land was managed through fire prior to European settlement is particularly interesting for CFA.

Both sessions started with a Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Bill Nicholson, who explained the Wurundjeri tribe and how they survived colonisation and being moved on to reserves and missions. He explained the meaning of the Welcome to Country ceremony and why it's so important to pay tribute and acknowledge his elders both past and present.

Shane Charles, a Yorta Yorta man from Shepparton and the program’s main facilitator, followed Uncle Bill with an explanation about traditional Aboriginal culture and what society was like prior to 1788. The group was then taken on a journey through colonisation and learnt past government policies of extermination (Tasmania), assimilation and integration which explain why many Aboriginal people are disadvantaged today.   

Charmaine Sellings, a Gunaikurnai woman who is a CFA member of the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust Satellite Brigade, shared her story with the group about becoming a CFA member. Charmaine understands the importance of putting out fires, but at the same time sees protection of cultural heritage sites as something CFA needs to understand and manage effectively. She explained some of the cultural heritage sites CFA needs to be aware of such as scarred trees and midden sites.

Roger Strickland (F&EM Planned Burn Coordinator) who participated in the session was able to offer his explanation on the differences between Aboriginal traditional burning practice and the more recent practice of planned burning when this question was posed to the group.  

Sherri McKerley (OT&V Team Leader) commented that the session was "warm, thought provoking, sometimes confronting (as it should be) but most importantly without a hint of guilt or blame that some sessions can often evoke, but a sense of shared purpose and direction". 

Gary Weir (F&EM Operations Manager) echoed these thoughts and said it was a “brilliant session” and that he had learnt so much and can really see the relevance for CFA.

CFA would like to thank the Wurundjeri Land Council for their cooperation in running these sessions at CFA Headquarters. 

Last Updated: 20 April 2015