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Traditional Burning

Traditional Burning Project

Funding $60,000
Funding providerNational Landcare Programme $30,000
Catchment Action NSW $30,000
Project timeframeCommenced 2010

Summary

Since 2010 Central Tablelands LLS (previously Lachlan CMA) has been actively delivering the Lachlan traditional burning project funded through the Australian Government National Landcare Programme. This innovative project is trialling cultural burning techniques in the Lachlan Catchment to provide agricultural, biodiversity and cultural outcomes.


Background

Fire and fire management is how the Aboriginal people have cared about their country for thousands of years. Fire is an important and spiritual part of Aboriginal culture and was integrated into many aspects of life.

Aboriginal Australians hold a wealth of ecological knowledge that could be applied to contemporary land management.

With the arrival of Europeans there were changes to Aboriginal people's lifestyles and movements towards communities, towns and settlements. The practice of burning largely ceased, particularly in southern Australia, and cultural knowledge about burning is being lost as the older generations with the 'know how' pass away before the knowledge can be recorded or given to the younger generation.

Traditional burning

Fire is an important part of the Australian landscape, with many of our native plants adapted to survive fires and many reliant on fire to keep them healthy and regenerate. The animals rely on fire also to keep the plants they depend on for food and shelter healthy and plentiful.

Traditional burning uses a cool fire lit through point ignition techniques and at the right time of year for the particular type of landscape. The fire is done in conditions that ensure the flame height stays very low and does not ever burn the canopy of the trees. The fire moves very slowly through the area, allowing animals and insects time to escape the flames and survive the fire in patches that do not burn. Not all the area is burnt, with the end result a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country. This leaves refuge areas for animals and plants to survive and regenerate quickly after the fire.

Country can be managed using traditional burningfor a vast number of reasons such as:
  • promoting native grass to help control weeds,
  • promoting perennial grasses,
  • promoting the seeding of grasses for animals such as birds,
  • managing food resources for certain animals,
  • managing for bush tucker,
  • to attract animals e.g. for hunting,
  • promoting a diverse range of plants,
  • helping certain plants (grasses, trees, shrubs) regenerate
  • protecting areas from wildfire.

Purpose

The purpose of this work has been initially to improve biodiversity using fire as a tool to promote the regeneration of native plants and reduce competition from plant species that over time now dominate some ecosystems.


Challenges

A legacy of European settlement has seen a reduction in low intensity burning contributing to a knowledge deficit among Indigenous communities in southern Australia on culture fire methodology and philosophy, decline in biodiversity condition and an increase in extreme fire events.


Benefits

  • Enhance native vegetation and biodiversity through cultural fire application
  • Development of an ecosystem management tool empowering Indigenous people to again be recognised as knowledge holders and important practitioners in restoring the health of our native ecosystems.
  • Trial cultural fire as a control technique for weed management / potential biosecurity tool
  • Improve culture fire implementation skills and application practice
  • Understanding country and fire responses (knowledge on predicting outcomes of burning)
  • Products (DVD) for cultural knowledge sharing and revival
  • Cultural sharing and networking for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community
  • Enhance and strengthen partnerships.

PROJECT UPDATES

Central Tablelands LLS partnered with the Gaambuwananha Ngurambang (GN) team

Central Tablelands LLS partnered with the Gaambuwananha Ngurambang (GN) team to assist in returning traditional land management practises into the region.

The purpose was both restoration to improve biodiversity outcomes and to regenerate cultural values in both Indigenous and non-indigenous communities. A substantial component was the implementation of traditional burning and the role this technique may have in future land management.

The GN team have aspirations for restoring land under their management. Serrated tussock, a perennial grass from South America is a major threat to biodiversity in the tablelands of New South Wales. The GN team identify the tussock as a significant challenge on their restoration pathway. We commenced an investigation to test if traditional burning can be used as a tool to control serrated tussock.

The GN team and the Central Tablelands LLS recognised from previous scientific trials that a single burn was ineffectual in the control of this weed but traditional burning is very different in both periodicity and fire intensity.

Our initial results are promising as a method of enhancing the regeneration of native plants while reducing the growth of serrated tussock but there is a lot of field work ahead. It has been a great thrill however for the group to be recognised at such a prestige event during such an early stage of the project.

Project to be showcased at 10th Biennial Bushfire Conference, Sydney 2015

The achievements of the Gaambuwananha Ngurambang (Orange Local Aboriginal Land Council Biodiversity Program) team have been recognised by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW through the acceptance of their work as a presentation at the 10th Biennial Bushfire Conference to be held in Sydney.

 


More information 

Larry Towney, Senior Land Services Officer - Aboriginal Communities

E: larry.towney@lls.nsw.gov.au

P: 02 6851 9521