The importance of cultural burning to CFA

CFA continues to work alongside Aboriginal people to improve knowledge and understanding of cultural burning.


National Indigenous Fire Workshop Dhungala 2019

Cultural burning, sometimes referred to as Traditional burning, is performed by Aboriginal people as part of their cultural responsibilities and obligations to care for country.

Cultural burning is the traditional ecological knowledge of Australia’s first people. CFA acknowledges all Victorian Aboriginal people as a cultural continuum.

CFA brigades have been assisting with the return of cultural fire in practical ways by supporting for cultural burns conducted by Aboriginal people, or by piloting and evaluating burns based on cultural practice in association with local Aboriginal people.

Every year since 2014 CFA staff and volunteers have attended cultural burning workshops interstate and in Victoria to learn about Aboriginal culture and how Traditional burning practices could inform modern fire use practice.

In 2018 CFA appointed its first Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Adviser to assist with protection of cultural heritage values when CFA conducts planned or emergency activities, and to enable CFA to support cultural burning practice by Aboriginal people.

CFA’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Adviser Michael Sherwen said cultural burning has many benefits for CFA and significant steps have been taken to include Aboriginal practices in CFA.

“Cultural burning knowledge belongs to the Traditional knowledge holders and any cultural burning partnerships with CFA must be led by Aboriginal people," Michael said.

“Cultural burning is an extremely efficient practice and can help Victorians with the uncertainties of changing climate.

“Working together to share knowledge will not only encourage participation of Aboriginal communities in CFA, but it will also assist in developing adaptive fire management practices.

“I'm humbled by the commitment of members from all parts of CFA with helping and driving engagement with Indigenous communities.”

CFA is currently working on improvements to the Koori Inclusion Action Plan (KIAP).

A working group has been established to review and develop a meaningful framework that reflects CFA current and future aspirations.

“Key areas of focus are engagement and grass roots approach of working side-by-side with Indigenous community groups across Victoria,” Michael added.

“Consultation with Indigenous communities and CFA members will be key for the new KIAP Framework.

“An email for feedback will be available soon for the new KIAP for CFA members to contribute, give thoughts or ideas.”

To find out more about cultural burning watch the ABC episode ‘Fighting Fire with Fire’.

Author: Holly Penketh