Cultural burning being integrated into state burning program

By Liz Mellino

It might not be long until land around the Greater Shepparton region is cleared using indigenous burning techniques.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has confirmed cultural burning, which dates back hundreds of years, is now being integrated in the state's planned burning program.

Aimed at encouraging the right sort of regrowth while protecting local animals, traditional cool burning was once used by Yorta Yorta people camping along the creeks and rivers.

In a story published in The News on Monday, Yorta Yorta elder Uncle Colin Walker said indigenous people had been unable to conduct traditional burning techniques since the colonisation of Australia.

Uncle Col said the country and its rich landscape had suffered during the past 180 years, and he believed traditional burning strategies should be adopted to control the land and prevent the destruction currently occurring across the state.

“When our old people camped along the creeks and rivers, they always cleared up and did a bit of burning on a calm day. They watched the weather and which way the wind was blowing — never big burns so traditional country was never burnt out,” he said.

In a statement provided to the News, DEWLP confirmed it would continue to work in partnership with traditional owners, recognising that it could learn from their knowledge of the land.

“Cultural burning is being fully integrated in the state’s existing planned burning program,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson confirmed Forest Fire Management supported the development of Victoria's first Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy, compiled by The Federation of Victorian Traditional Owners Cooperation.

This strategy provides direction on how fire agencies can work in partnership with traditional owners to lead cultural fire practices on land across the state.

Its development builds on the local partnership between traditional owners and land management authorities, including DEWLP, catchment management authorities, the CFA and Parks Victoria.

Along with the development of the strategy, the spokesperson confirmed Forest Fire Management Victoria partnered with the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation in 2017 to conduct the first cultural burn.

This burn was the first traditional burn on Dja Dja Wurrung country for 170 years as part of Victoria’s wider risk reduction planned burning regime.

“These cultural burns are in addition to the planned burning conducted for fuel management purposes by Forest Fire Management Victoria,” the spokesperson said.

“There have been more than a dozen cultural burns in Victoria in the past two years and another 30 are now on the Joint Fuel Management Plan.”