Authorities to blame for Victoria bushfires, says Germaine Greer

Authorities to blame for Victoria bushfires, says Germaine Greer

14 February 2009

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Australia — Outspoken academic Germaine Greer has branded Australian authorities arsonists for failing to carry out regular burn-offs, which she says could have prevented the deadly Victorian bushfires.

Greer said Australians were paying the price for repeatedly ignoring the lessons of past bushfires — the need for burn-offs in cooler months to lessen the risk of blazes in the summer.

“I was born in 1939 and Melbourne was under black clouds of smoke with cinders sifting down everywhere and we were already there on Black Friday,” she said in London on Thursday.

“We get taught the same lesson again and again and we just think: ‘Oh no, that’s a bit drastic.’ No, it’s not a bit drastic, we have to do it.

“It’s the same old story. We need to educate people, we need to also have a bit of courage and we probably need somebody to direct the operation.

“It’s useless running around looking for arsonists. The arsonists are us. They are our Government and our administrators. We have been stupid.”

Greer was speaking while attending a function with Prince Charles in London to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s charity in the UK.

The feminist legend, who recalled holidaying when she was younger in the now devastated Victorian town of Marysville, said fire was part of the Australian bush life cycle and the more fuel that was allowed to build up, the greater the risk of a blaze.

She said authorities should learn from how Aborigines used fire hundreds of years ago to remove the build-up of undergrowth and dead branches from bushland areas. And, she added, if housing subdivisions continued to be built in the bush, fire management regimes should be considered vital to prevent bushfires destroying them.

“Nobody buys a house in a wonderful green forested area expecting it to be burnt,” she said. “If it is burnt every five years, you’ll have six months where it looks a bit rubbish.

“But you will also get all the orchids and all the rare wildflowers popping up out of the ground.”

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