WA to lead the nation on Indigenous burning practices

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has created a new position for a traditional fire programs coordinator in a nation-first move in Western Australia.

A smoking ceremony at the 2019 NRM Coastal Conference for environmental sustainability in WA. Photo: Supplied.

This role will oversee the incorporation of traditional practices used for thousands of years in Indigenous bushfire and land management alongside contemporary methods currently used across the state.

Entire Fire Management co-founder Gavin Fancote lauds the move by DFES but says there will need to be steps in place before we can transition back entirely to traditional methods.

“I think the consultation should be within their own regions, especially for the south-west, we’re very good with that region and it’ll be great for the goldfields region,” says Mr Fancote.

“Every vegetation area needs a different management style and we need to consult with the elders of these different regions when it comes to handling those types of burnings.”

Mr Fancote believes that incorporating various traditional practices will help to heal our environment and prevent bushfires.   

Kayteyte man Wayne Davis, from the Northern Territory, has been appointed to the new position.

He has worked in land management and as a practitioner of traditional fire management for almost four decades.

In his first year as coordinator, Mr Davis will engage with traditional owners, other land managers and Aboriginal communities to gather knowledge on their cultural connections to fire and fire management.

This will then help Mr Davis in creating or adapting methods that will combine contemporary fire management with traditional techniques and methods from across the state.

The Ngurrara Rangers of the Kimberley region use traditional methods to prevent bushfires. Photo: Kimberley Land Council and Ngurrara Rangers.

Western Australian emergency services minister Francis Logan says that the creation of the new role is a very welcome step in recognising the long history Indigenous people have with bushfire and land management.

“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services already works closely with Aboriginal people through a range of Aboriginal advancement initiatives and this new role is a progression of that existing relationship,” says Mr Logan.

“Traditional owners have also worked with the department across the state to identify and protect culturally significant sites during bushfires.”

Mr Logan looks forward to seeing the integration of traditional practices in making Western Australia more resilient to bushfires.

WA Landcare Network executive officer Louise Duxbury says the WALN is delighted at the position being set up and the recognition of First Nations’ perspectives and understandings.  

Dr Louise Duxbury pictured right with Albany elder Aunty Carol Petterson and Minister for Environment Stephen Dawson. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s never been more significant than now to have the full engagement of Aboriginal cultural science as we’re facing a new world of climate change in terms of the risk of fire and our need to develop new approaches,” says Dr Duxbury.

“Aboriginal perspectives are very long-term and are different from the status quo approach to fire,” she says.

Dr Duxbury believes that Aboriginal approaches are a key part of the rethinking needed to find answers to the challenges we are now facing.

“Aboriginal people are the first coast and land carers and its essential that they are at every table where environmental management challenges, responses and future thinking are being deliberated.”