Australia fires: Aboriginal planners say the bush ‘needs to burn’

Posted by on January 14, 2020 12:43 am
Categories: Politics

For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Australia set fire to the land.

Long before Australia was invaded and colonised by Europeans, fire management techniques – known as “cultural burns” – were being practised.

The cool-burning, knee-high blazes were designed to happen continuously and across the landscape.

The fires burn up fuel like kindling and leaf detritus, meaning a natural bushfire has less to devour.

Since Australia’s fire crisis began last year, calls for better reintegration of this technique have grown louder. But it should have happened sooner, argues one Aboriginal knowledge expert.

“The bush needs to burn,” says Shannon Foster.

She’s a knowledge keeper for the D’harawal people – relaying information passed on by her elders – and an Aboriginal Knowledge lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Much of the ancestral information she shares relates to the bush, says Ms Foster.

“It’s the concept of maintaining country – central to everything we do as Aboriginal people. It’s about what we can give back to country; not just what we can take from it.”

‘Naive’ techniques of today Country is personified within Aboriginal culture. “The earth is our mother. She keeps us alive,” Ms Foster says. This relationship shifts priorities around precautionary burning.

While modern-day authorities do carry out hazard reduction burning, focusing on protecting lives and property, Ms Foster says it’s “clearly not working”.

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