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Volunteers research Aboriginal fire tradition
Two CFA volunteers will help Indigenous communities in Victoria restore lost cultural burning practices, using their research scholarships from the Emergency Services Foundation.
Euroa Fire Brigade volunteer Phil Hawkey and Eildon Fire Brigade Group Officer Len Timmins will travel to Cape York in Queensland next month to study traditional fire-based practices of the Yalanji Nylungkul Warra community, from 21–26 August.
Yesterday, the pair discussed their trip with several Aboriginal elders in Melbourne at a NAIDOC Week event. Having gained insight from these discussions, they will now meet with community elders and other stakeholders in Cape York to understand how they use fire in traditional practices such as caring for country, reducing fuel and promoting ecological health.
Mr Hawkey and Mr Timmins will bring back their research to help Aboriginal communities in Victoria revitalise their own fire traditions through conducting workshops with land managers and community interest groups.
“Burning country is a regular practice for Aboriginal communities because it’s a traditional way to connect with the land,” Mr Hawkey said.
“However, traditional owners in our southern states have largely lost this practice, so we hope what we learn in Cape York can help Aboriginal leaders across Victoria to re-apply their own burning traditions.”
Two years ago, Mr Hawkey visited Wiradjuri country in Orange, NSW to learn about traditional burning practices in this region.
“This trip really inspired my interest in fire-based Aboriginal traditions and I developed a strong desire to help rebuild this part of Aboriginal culture in my home state,” he said.
Mr Hawkey continues to research these traditions to gain a deeper insight into why these practices are important to indigenous culture.
“I understand how important burning practices are for Aboriginal people - many of whom see these activities as ways to both protect the integrity of the land and bond with their natural surrounds,” he said.
“I see this research opportunity as a way I can help preserve this tradition for generations to come.”