Local Indigenous knowledge supports community bushfire protection

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CFA’s only all-Indigenous fire brigade Bunjil will support one of the largest CFA planned and led forest burns on the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust (LTAT) on Tuesday (23 April).


Bunjil Fire Brigade members will assist in site preparation and identification of culturally significant assets ahead of the 250 hectare burn that will help manage vegetation and reduce bushfire risk on the site that is around 80 per cent forest.

The expansive burn will involve over 80 personnel and 20 vehicles from the South East, South West and North East and follows recommendations drawn from a bushfire mitigation risk report commissioned in 2018 for the LTAT.

Deputy Chief Officer South East Region, Trevor Owen said this burn plays an important role in ensuring the safety of this community ahead of the next fire season.

“We recognise that the area is of significant cultural value to the LTAT and the Aboriginal and Indigenous community, so we have been working to make sure we’ve taken the appropriate steps to protect them and the area,” Trevor said.

“We know that during the 2019-2020 Gippsland bushfires, the community was concerned about the dense forested area, as it really is only one way in and one way out for them.

“This burn is about working in with the Indigenous owners of the land to reduce the fuel risk and fuel loads ahead of future bushfire seasons and ensure we’re giving confidence back into the community.”

It also provides a good training opportunity for CFA crews.

“Given the scale of this burn, our volunteers have not had exposure to a fuel reduction of this size. This exercise allows them to practice their skills in a safe and controlled environment,” Trevor said.

“It gives those involved exposure to working on a culturally significant site where we will be doing all we can to ensure minimal disturbance by avoiding the use of large, tracked vehicles.”

Recruitment for the new Bunjil brigade is ongoing after it was established in 2023.

“We’re recruiting a number of new volunteers from the local community and they’re making their way through the process now. It will be great to have the brigade there participating on their land across the two days,” Trevor said.

“This activity will go a long way in supporting and protecting a better outcome for the community and will be a fantastic opportunity to work closely with LTAT to make that happen.”

Charmaine Sellings, a volunteer firefighter with Bunjil Fire Brigade and team leader of one of the crews on the day said providing local knowledge and supporting this burn will go a long way in safeguarding the community.

“This burn is significant to us to reduce future bushfire risk. During the 19-20 bushfires, our land never got burnt but we were evacuated, so our plan is to make it as safe as we can for the community,” Charmaine said.

“Three to four of our new recruits will be on site in case they are needed and on Monday night we will be wrapping trees and raking around them to prepare the area.

“As they are scarred trees, otherwise known as canoe trees, they play an important role in our history. Wrapping them will help protect them for cultural sensitivities as well as crew safety."


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Submitted by CFA media