Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council Land & Sea Ranger - Narina Ferguson at a cultural burn.
Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council Land & Sea Ranger - Narina Ferguson at a cultural burn.

Cultural burns key to averting bushfire crisis

A LOCAL Indigenous leader has called for greater investment in cultural burning programs following a burn at Mylestom.

The use of fire by Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders as a land management practice goes back thousands of years.

And as the country looks for answers following a devastating bushfire season, Nathan Brennan is calling for reform and investment to facilitate a proliferation of the ancient practice.

Mr Brennan, the CEO of Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council, said cultural burning was critical not only as part of continuous cultural practice but in protecting the community and reducing the threat of wildfire.

“The Gumbaynggirr people have used fire for thousands of years, and it has been used as a tool by our ancestors to manage the country, enhance biodiversity, replenish food sources and reduce the threat of wildfire,” he said.

Nathan Brennan Chief Executive Officer for the Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council.
Nathan Brennan Chief Executive Officer for the Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Mr Brennan said there needed to be legislative reform, backed up by greater investment and support by government agencies, for Aboriginal Land and Sea Ranger programs especially in regional areas with an urban centre.

With a significant amount of investment into the ranger programs being directed to more remote areas, Mr Brennan wanted expansion across the state, as the need to practice culture and manage bushland was just as important in areas like the Coffs Coast.

He said a lack of resources directed to cultural burning programs was one of the key challenges facing Aboriginal people trying to continue the practice.

“Investment in this space is limited, only through proper reform and the development of programs and investment can Aboriginal people undertake cultural burning activities more frequently,” he said.

“Such activities not only creates jobs for Aboriginal people, but it also enhances biodiversity, protects heritage values and enhances community protection.”

Cultural burning in Orara East State Forest in 2017.
Cultural burning in Orara East State Forest in 2017.

On Tuesday the Land Council conducted a burn at Mylestom, which helped reduce weeds and support koala habitat.

The Land Council owned land also forms part of the Community Protection Plan for the Mylstom Village which has been developed in partnership the Rural Fire Service.

As a prime example of how cultural practices can interact with a town’s bushfire preparedness, Mr Brennan said the Mylstom burn showed how the region can benefit from an increase in the practice.

“Aboriginal land management and cultural fire practice not only benefits Aboriginal people, but it benefits the wider community and biodiversity within our region,” Mr Brennan said.