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Smoking Ceremony ushers in the FDP in D20
Sunday the 13th November was a momentous day for CFA District 20 and Victoria’s Aboriginal community. A traditional Smoking Ceremony at Rochester Fire Brigade ushered in the Fire Danger Period and readied the local fire fighters for a safe passage through the summer fire season.
The ceremony was performed by Aboriginal elder Kerri Douglas from the local Dja Dja Wurrung clan, the cultural custodians for a substantial part of country in District 20.
‘This is one of the most significant and timeless ceremonies performed by our people’, Kerri said, ‘and I’m proud to share this with CFA on behalf of my community’, she said.
Rochester Fire Brigade was also very proud hosts. Members and distinguished guests braved chilly weather to join this unique celebration; the first of its kind in CFA’s long and proud history.
Guests included Aboriginal elders Professor Henry Atkinson and Rick Ronnan; Member for Murray Plains the Hon Peter Walsh and Scott Falconer, Assistant Chief Fire Officer from DEWLP.
Official proceedings commenced with brigade member and key event organiser Bruce Barrett welcoming the 60-odd attendees. This was followed by an Acknowledgement of Country by brigade Captain Luke Warren, paying his respects to the Dja Dja Wurrung people and their elders past and present on behalf of everyone present.
‘We are privileged to host the event’, said Luke, ‘it’s a unique way for us to learn about each other and to bring our communities closer together’, he said.
CFA District 20 Operations Manager Peter Taylor then spoke at length about the importance of engaging with Victoria’s Koori community. ‘This smoking ceremony is all about building partnerships based on cultural exchange and knowledge sharing’, Peter said. ‘D20 is committed to the CFA Koori Inclusion Action Plan and this ceremony is one of many more steps we hope to take in building lasting partnerships’, he said.
Smoking ceremonies have great meaning for Aboriginal people. As Kerri Douglas lit the leaves of local Cherry Ballarat, Wattle and Gum, she spoke about how the rich aromatic smoke cleanses the air and wards off bad spirits. She then invited guests to enter the smoke as a sign of good intentions and respect.
Unlike most times fire fighters walk through thick smoke, this occasion sparked the start of a special relationship.
‘Today is symbolic of the friendship between Aboriginal people and the CFA,’ senior Aboriginal elder and former CFA fire fighter Professor Henry Atkinson said, as he watched as Rick Ronnan passed an Aboriginal flag through the rich smoke. ‘The colours of the flag represent something special to our community, and flying the flag here at the brigade is a symbol that our people are welcome here,’ he said. Professor Atkinson then presented the flag to the brigade Captain.
In the lead up to the summer fire danger period, Peter Taylor also reminded guests that Aboriginal people used fire to sensibly manage the Australian landscape for thousands of years.
‘Aboriginal culture is the oldest living culture on earth,’ Peter said. ‘We share a culture of fire and CFA and the broader community stand to gain a lot should we take the time to learn more about the traditional use of fire in managing our risk’, he said.
CFA has a new website to help build partnerships between CFA and Victoria’s Koori communities.