The importance of consultation and engagement with traditional owners on fire management was no more apparent than when fires ignited within the Budj Bim cultural landscape late last year.
Budj Bim cultural landscape is comprised of a dormant volcano and 6600-year-old aquaculture systems used to harvest eels, located in the traditional Country of the Gunditjmara people in South West Victoria.
It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in August 2019; the first Indigenous site to be listed exclusively for its cultural significance.
Due to this, CFA and partner agencies realised fighting a fire in that area would prove challenging and we needed to develop a plan to protect the cultural land.
Therefore, ahead of last year’s fire season, fire management agencies participated in a range of engagement sessions with traditional owners and the community relating to firefighting strategies and tactics.
This consultation enlightened incident management personnel of the rich cultural values and firefighting limitations to ensure effective strategies could be planned prior to any potential fire event.
CFA District 5 Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) Richard Bourke said when lightning ignited fires across the cultural landscape on 30 December 2019, all CFA regional and senior volunteer leaders were aware of the action plan.
“Every year we conduct liaison meetings with FFMVic and that particular November we chose Budj Bim as a tactical exercise with our members,” ACFO Bourke said.
“We looked at all the potential issues with a particularly new overview with consideration of Budj Bim’s cultural heritage listing.
“There are physical limitations such as the extreme volcanic rocky terrain and limited established track access, as well as cultural considerations such as the historical Indigenous heritage and connection with the land.”
The fires burned from 30 December 2019 to 4 January 2020 and had impacted 6000-hectares of the site.