Indigenous groups, fire agencies and community members enjoyed a week of celebrating cultural fire knowledge and practice, co-hosted alongside the Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation.
A range of workshops were conducted over the four days, exposing participants to the cultural fire knowledge and practices for healing country. Participants learned that burning of country is not just about fuel reduction but about engaging in an ecosystem for the benefit of all things: flora, fauna and human beings.
Participants were provided with the opportunity to learn about places of cultural significance such as scar trees and middens, but also about other cultural practices such as traditional dance, tool making and basket weaving.
A cultural heritage walk along the Dhungala and through Barmah forest allowed participants to learn more about the local area including water management of the world-renowned Ramsar wetlands. There was also the opportunity to be entertained by musical performances.
Education about Indigenous culture was enhanced with participants learning directly from and alongside Traditional Owners.
“I was able to speak with Aboriginal people from all over Australia and learn about their observations and their experiences. I was surprised to learn that (traditional) burning is not just a cultural practice, but is also used to keep the land healthy,” Ian Hay, Group Officer for Mt Macedon and District said.
The experiences provided in the workshops aimed to raise awareness about how communities could work together with their local Traditional Owners to manage the land.
“I am already excited about our next steps, although mindful that they will be tiny ones and will take time,” Bev Dick of Acheron Brigade said.
“We have so much to learn about the place of fire in managing and supporting the healthy future of our countryside. I feel very hopeful that bit by bit we can learn together about another way of using fire to care for our Country.”
More than 400 people from all states and territories across Australia attended the workshop. The event was strongly supported by DWELP and Parks Victoria who provided the logistical support for a base camp and facilities in Barmah National Park.
CFA also provided assistance, with CFA volunteers providing first aid support for the working groups, and logistical support through the organising committee.
Vegetation Management Officer Phil Hawkey from North East Region was impressed with how CFA members engaged at the event.
“Everyone showed an avid willingness to learn and respect the ancient culture of our Aboriginal people,” Phil said.
“We should be very proud of the respect, energy and enthusiasm shown by our people.”