With alarming predictions for an upcoming hot Australian summer, the Aboriginal-owned Jagun Alliance is educating residents of Billen Cliffs Village in New South Wales about Indigenous fire management techniques.
Cultural burning is an age-old Indigenous technique: a planned fire is set on landscapes executed within controlled lines and at lower temperatures, burning small patches of vegetation, allowing animals and birds to move away from the heat.
“The land is teaching us that we are not paying attention – logging and clearing and fossil fuels and the destruction that we’ve done on the land and that we’ve put up into the atmosphere, it’s coming back on us,” Oliver Costello, Jagun’s executive director, said.
“It’s so important that we get people back on the country and learning how we can heal the land, bring the fire back, bring the trees back, look after the waters in the river and get more functional healthy systems,” he added.
Anastasia Guise, a resident of the Billen Cliffs village community, reached out to Jagun to help prepare the land around the village for future possible wildfires by removing weeds from the undergrowth.
She believes that the devastating wildfires of 2019-2020 made Australians more aware of the dangers of uncontrolled fires. “The key that many people missed was the practice of cultural burning,” Guise noted.
“Our Indigenous ancestors have practiced controlled burning for generations. It’s time we learned from their wisdom,” property owner Michael Smith said. “At least this way now, like the section we’re burning here, we burn this bit, we probably won’t burn another bit for a few weeks, but then you move on to the next section. The animals move out of the area into the burnt area, so they’ve got protection”.
The 2019-2020 ‘black summer’ of wildfires in Australia destroyed an area the size of Turkey and affected almost three billion animals.