Working on the railway (2): what is ‘cultural burning’?

Environmentalists at the Maldon Railway meeting expressed interest in Indigenous approaches to fire in the landscape, and a possible briefing by Indigenous fire officers was canvassed.

This is from the Joint Management Plan for Dja Dja Wurrung parks (2018):

‘For Dja Dja Wurrung People, Wi is a practice with some equivalent aspects to contemporary fire management undertaken by Parks Victoria, DELWP and other agencies. Wi
helps deliver a disturbance regime that supports or hinders particular plant species and manipulates animal distributions. Among other impacts, Wi can open the forest floor to light, release the seedbank to support greater biodiversity, help convert old wood into available nutrients and stimulate the cycle of birth, death and re-birth. However, Wi is far more than an environmental management tool—it is an expression of cultural obligation, of Dja Dja Wurrung People’s connections to land, each other, and Creation time. Fire regimes that lack DDW involvement threaten cultural obligations, aspirations and knowledge systems, as well as the healing of the landscape. Wi is as much about who applies Wi as how Wi is applied.

‘Since colonisation the application of Wi has dramatically changed. Consistent intensity and timing of Wi is lacking in the landscape, and intense wildfires occur periodically, with
ongoing damage to cultural and natural heritage. Planned burning is largely centred on fuel reduction—the cultural outcomes, impacts on DDW food and fibre plants and
animals, cultural connections and obligations have been little considered. While controlled burning is beginning to integrate DDW cultural practices, fire regimes continue to damage
Country. Cultural heritage in the Parks can also be damaged by the use of fire retardants, mineral earth fire breaks, control lines and in some cases the intensity of controlled burns.
Finally, ongoing climate change will affect how fire behaves in DDW Country and how it can be used as a management tool.’ (page 33)

According to the Joint Fuel Management Plan, Dja Dja Wurrung rangers are set to conduct 17 burns in 2022-3, 30 in 2023-4 and 13 in 2024-5.

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2 Responses to Working on the railway (2): what is ‘cultural burning’?

  1. Mike says:

    You can only hope that over time the people running the Forest Fire Management will take on board at least some of the values of cultural burning in terms of maintaining biodiversity and moderate the current practices of burning on an industrial scale.
    It is a shame that the FFM does not consider whether it could look at actually planting species that are fire resistant rather than just using the one method of management. It would also be great if they followed up the burns by managing flammable species that seem to thrive in the fire grounds afterwards (like Coffee-bush) and this would be a good time to consider what could be planted. It’s not as though they don’t have the human resources.

    • David Griffiths says:

      That area they want to burn is already full of plants that are not in any serious way flammable and will not spread fire to an ill defined area for myth of asset protection. Planting infill is an impossible and expensive task doomed to failure.The best thing is to just leave it alone, and not drink the Kool Aid of cultural burning as a trojan horse just to get the burned h/a’s.
      Let em go and burn some grasslands that are where the real threat is and where cultural burning was principally practiced around late summer and see how that goes.

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