Aboriginal, News

Getting fired up in Cape York

In July 2017, NRM South supported Cathy Ransom, Ben Sculthorpe (weetapoona Aboriginal Corporation directors), John Easton, Craig Blake, Jayke Binns (pakana services) and Kris Schaffer (Bushfoods director) to attend a national fire workshop in Cape York.

Essential to successful environmental management is understanding how fire can be both a destructive and regenerative force, and that environmental outcomes are inextricably linked to the knowledge and experience gained by Aboriginal custodians. Aboriginal community members from pakana services, weetapoona and Bushfoods are being provided ongoing opportunities to be involved in fire management implemented by local and state government, as well as Aboriginal fire management practitioners. Using fire as a regenerative land management tool and supporting this traditional knowledge base within the local Aboriginal community has the potential to bring about long-term benefits to the health of southern Tasmania’s environment and to increase community awareness and understanding of Aboriginal aspirations for the environment.

On their return, Ben, Cathy, John and Kris gave positive and enthusiastic feedback on the workshop and shared some of their learnings and knowledge with staff from NRM South and the Tasmania Fire Service. This included Cathy and Ben discussing their aspirations for a fire sticks program on Murrayfield (Bruny Island) as well as a walk in the bush where TasFire shared their observations on the impact of fire in that landscape. There was a good cross exchange of the balance between burning for ecological/cultural and community protection and how these needs can sometimes conflict in and around built up areas. Issues of broader community acceptance of fire as a management tool were also discussed and attendees agreed to meet again later in the year to look at other areas, and keep building a relationship where skills, knowledge and support can be exchanged. It was also suggested the TasFire crew should try and get to Cape York next year, an opportunity that they are keen to pursue.

This sharing of knowledge and experience is helping to build a good relationship with TasFire, by developing a mutual understanding on Aboriginal fire management values. Ben, Cathy, John and Kris expressed the need for their communities to keep exploring what an Aboriginal firestick program could look like in Tasmania. Ongoing engagement is aimed at sharing information and knowledge on ecology, biodiversity and fire that makes it more accessible to anyone interested in fire management. Future discussions will embrace ideas on how we can collaboratively roll out information about Aboriginal fire management to other groups – including councils, landholders and schools. There is also interest in discussing key fire management messages, how to make fire management relevant to visitors and migrants to Tasmania and what they can do to care for Country.

This program is supported by NRM South through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Many thanks to John Easton for the use of his images.

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