AUSTRALIA: Fire has been an integral part of how the Barapa Barapa people have managed the land for thousands of years.
So on Tuesday, when Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) and Barapa Barapa firefighters conducted a joint 2ha traditional burn in Gunbower State Forest, it was not only a first (in terms of partnerships) but was also a culturally significant event.
Barapa Barapa Elder Neville Whyman said it was an important event.
‘‘To have our members be part of putting traditional fire back into the landscape to help heal country is a wonderful event in our cultural and historical history,’’ Uncle Neville said.
FFMVic acting assistant chief fire officer Allyson Lardner said that the Barapa Barapa people are the traditional owners of the Lower Gunbower.
‘‘Traditional burns are cooler, slower burns, with fires lit in patches to allow the flames to take their natural paths,’’ she said.
‘‘FFMVic and Barapa Barapa firefighters will walk together through the burn site using spot fires to ignite small areas, slowly allowing the surface fuels over the whole site to be burnt.
‘‘We call this mosaic burning and at the Gunbower site it will remove weeds, shrubs, dead grass and other vegetation as well as cleansing and regenerating the land.
‘‘Two members of Barapa Barapa have completed FFMVic’s general firefighter training. These firefighters will work with experienced FFMVic firefighters throughout the traditional burn.
‘‘FFMVic is committed to working together with all the traditional owners across Central Victoria to reintroduce these traditional land management practices into Central Victoria to reduce bushfire risk to communities. We are at the start of our journey to incorporate traditional burning practices into our planned burning program – marking the return of thousands of years of Aboriginal land management practices.”
North Central Catchment Management Authority project officer Patrick Fagan said that this week’s traditional burn was requested by the Barapa Water for Country project, a partnership between the North Central Catchment Management Authority and Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners and The Living Murray program.
“We believe this event was the first burn in partnership with FFMVic, directed by traditional owners, held on country since European occupation, which is why today is so significant,” Mr Fagan said.