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.
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.