Traditional Aboriginal burning practices reintroduced to central Victorian landscape through Dja Dja Wurrung and Forest Fire Management Victoria partnership

TRADITIONAL Aboriginal burning practices are again being used to manage the natural environment, in what is a first for Victoria.

Forest Fire Management Victoria’s Bendigo-based staff and the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clans Corporation have partnered to reintroduce traditional burns to the landscape, with the first two undertaken earlier this week in Maryborough and Whipstick.

Parks Victoria’s Dja Dja Wurrung ranger team leader and chair of the corporation, Trent Nelson, said the practice was putting “Dja Dja Wurrung people back in the landscape”.

Mr Nelson said the traditional burns would not take away from other practices such as planned burns, but would add Aboriginal knowledge and skills to the mix.

As well as act in fuel management, he said the reintroduction of traditional burns would help heal the natural environment.

FFM assistant chief fire officer Scott Falconer said the burns would have a legitimate place in fuel management going forward.

“This is a really important step in (reintroducing) something that has been absent, in a structured way, for 150, 200 years,” Mr Falconer said.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Dja Dja Wurrung district planner Mick Bourke said education was an important aspect of the project.

With much traditional knowledge lost, those involved in the project are talking to elders, reading settlers’ accounts and old journals, and monitoring their own burn activities.

As a result, Mr Bourke said, this knowledge would be able to be passed down to younger generations.

He said educating the community was also essential, and fire was not something to be feared, but a useful tool when harnessed in the right way.

Traditional burns differ from planned burns in that they are cooler, slower burns, with fires lit in patches and allowed to take their natural paths.

It is hoped the combination of traditional and modern land management methods will become common practice across Victoria.

‘Healing country, healing people’

THE return of traditional Aboriginal burns to the central Victorian landscape is as much about people as it is about land management, those involved in the groundbreaking project say.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Dja Dja Wurrung district planner Mick Bourke said bringing the traditional practice back was a way of not only healing country, but healing people.

Mr Bourke said some elders had not returned to country since being forcibly removed decades ago, and it was “quite an amazing feeling” to be able to bring such people back.

Both he and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chairman, and Parks Victoria ranger, Trent Nelson said they also believed the project would open doors.

Mr Nelson said the project gave him hope for the future, for his people’s employment opportunities and aspirations.

He said the project also represented an opportunity to revive and practice Aboriginal culture.