Tra­di­tional burn­ing

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By CORAL COOK­SLEY

WORK­ING to­gether to man­age the land as cus­to­dial own­ers for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions was a key mes­sage de­liv­ered by an abo­rig­i­nal el­der at a work­shop held in Woor­agee’s Cen­te­nary Hall last Sun­day.

The Woor­agee Land­care group hosted work­shop about tra­di­tional burn­ing - an abo­rig­i­nal practice that has been in­te­grated into the State’s planned burn­ing pro­grams - was held in Woor­agee’s Me­mo­rial Hall with close to 40 peo­ple from around the North East.

It fol­lowed a grant re­ceived from the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning (DELWP) of $30,000 for a lo­cal project.

El­der Un­cle Rod Ma­son from the Ngarigo peo­ple in the Snowy Moun­tains re­gion who had been a Na­tion­als Parks ranger for 30 years, said shared knowl­edge and skills in land man­age­ment was cru­cial.

“As cus­to­di­ans of the land we all have a have a duty of care,” he said.

“It’s a health­ier way to look af­ter the coun­try by do­ing this to­gether - we can’t do it any other way.”

The project de­signed to help other land own­ers in the area learn about the practice will be un­der­taken on a 150 acre prop­erty that has been owned and man­aged by the Stelling fam­ily for the last 34 years.

Anne Stelling said na­tive veg­e­ta­tion and habi­tat needed im­prove­ment.

“We be­came in­ter­ested in cul­tural tra­di­tional burn­ing to do this through Land­care con­tacts and news about other projects around the coun­try,” she said.

The project that will run un­til the year 2020 de­vel­oped from of­fer­ing the prop­erty to tra­di­tional own­ers as a pos­si­ble site to practice the burn through Mr Richard McTer­nan from Al­bury.

Mr Richard McTer­nan who is co­or­di­nat­ing the project had been in­volved in ear­lier projects.

Ms Ster­ling said it was a priv­i­lege to have the sup­port of el­ders Un­cle Rod Ma­son, and Al­bury’s Un­cle Allen Mur­ray from the Dhud­huroa peo­ple.

“They hold tra­di­tional fire knowl­edge and are will­ing to share that with us,” she said.

Among project aims were learn­ing how to burn for the ben­e­fit of ecosys­tems, fuel re­duc­tion that less­ened wild­fire im­pact, and record achieve­ments.

Oth­ers in­clude shar­ing tra­di­tional knowl­edge with other land own­ers in the area as well as help bridge the gap be­tween non-abo­rig­i­nal and abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

Sey­mour- based CFA Veg­e­ta­tion Man­age­ment Of­fi­cer and Fire In­ves­ti­ga­tor Phil Hawkey said the CFA was in­creas­ingly be­com­ing en­gaged with tra­di­tional burn­ing knowl­edge where staff at­tended work­shops in Cape York in the far north west of Queens­land.

Mr Hawkey who has been with the CFA for over 40 years said tra­di­tional fire knowl­edge con­tin­ued to grow in the north­east of Vic­to­ria with in­ter­est from land­hold­ers, fire fight­ers and mem­bers of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“It’s been a quan­tum shift for the CFA,” he said.

Mr Hawkey said it was about un­der­stand­ing the land of tra­di­tional own­ers and their sci­en­tific method­ol­ogy used for fire.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to share re­spon­si­bil­ity for land man­age­ment and fuel re­duc­tion, and change the eco­log­i­cal and fuel sta­tus across the state,” he said.

“Tra­di­tional skills are part of the process,”

Woor­agee’s Terry Hayes said in­dige­nous peo­ple had suc­cess­fully man­aged the land for a long time.

“Euro­pean ways have been un­suc­cess­ful and we can learn from the knowl­edge of tra­di­tional own­ers,” he said.

The group to­gether with Dhud­huroa el­ders trav­elled to the nearby prop­erty fol­low­ing the work­shop where Un­cle Rod Ma­son shared his knowl­edge of the land.

He also gave an ex­am­ple of tra­di­tional burn­ing where the project will be­gin in au­tumn next year.

Both Mr Hawkey and Un­cle Allen Mur­ray are on the Woor­agee Land­care steer­ing com­mit­tee for the project.

PHOTO: Coral Cook­sley

SHARED KNOWL­EDGE: Ngarigo el­der Un­cle Rod Ma­son shares his knowl­edge of the land with the Stelling sis­ters Anne (left) and Fleur at the at the prop­erty last Sun­day af­ter an ex­am­ple of tra­di­tional burn­ing had taken place.

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