Traditional fire management Environment firestick delwp | December 21, 2016

Lessons in fire from traditional knowledge

“There are definitely things we can learn from traditional fire management practices.”

This was the key reflection from The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath after participating in two days of talks and presentations last week, hearing from one of the country’s leading practitioners of traditional fire management.

Ms Bath attended a presentation at Forestech in Lakes Entrance, where traditional fire practitioner Victor Steffensen from Queensland spoke on the practice of traditional indigenous cool mosaic burns to return country areas to a ‘healthy’ state.

Ms Bath also took the opportunity to speak informally with representatives from many different groups and organisations involved in rural land management.

The presentation was also attended by representatives from Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Country Fire Authority (CFA), East Gippsland Wildfire Taskforce, Mountain Cattlemen's Association of Victoria and other community groups.

“Victor Steffensen adds another experienced voice to the argument that we need fundamental changes in how we view fire management in Victoria,” Ms Bath said.

“I was impressed to hear about landscape-scale implementation of mosaic cool burns. These improve biodiversity and ecology; reduce fuel loads and therefore reduce the risk to property and life. It was very interesting to hear Victor explain how different forest types should be burned at different times of the year.”

Mr Steffensen said that the view of not using fire to prevent wild fires was a misguided one.

"We need to extend the window in which we burn. It’s vital to read and understand the country and burn accordingly,” he said.

“The ‘little and often’ approach to fire management existed for thousands of years. It allowed tree canopies to remain, rather than the devastation we see in uncontrolled wild fires,” Ms Bath added.

“Wild fires destroy everything in their paths. It’s not only property, infrastructure and vegetation, but also domestic and native animals. And for the animals that survive, much of their food is gone. As Victorians, we need to change the prism through which we view fire and redirect our resources accordingly,” Ms Bath concluded.


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