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Sharing fire management skills in the Bunya Mountains

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Indigenous dancers in full traditional dress perform next to a fire on a grassed area in front of onlookers. In the background are tall trees.
Russell Park, Bunya Mountains: Welcome Ceremony at the Bonye Bonye Fire Workshop
26 Oct 2017

Sharing the practice of traditional fire management was the aim of the Bonye Bonye Fire Workshop, held in the beautiful Bunya Mountains 300km north-west of Brisbane.

Hosted by the Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers in June, the workshop attracted 35 fire practitioners from Traditional Owner groups in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Two of the nation’s leading Indigenous fire practitioners Victor Steffensen and Oliver Costello led the workshop. They passed on their knowledge and empowered Indigenous rangers and land managers to become more active in traditional fire management.

Topics of discussion included ‘what is cultural fire’ and the obstacles and challenges stopping cultural burning practices (red tape). The workshop included site inspections and a practical fire management activity.

A group of people stand on a grassy slope watching a fire burn up the slope toward a stand of trees in the background with a bright blue sky in the background.
Retaining the skills and knowledge around traditional fire management

Mick Smith, the Bunya Mountains Murri Ranger Coordinator, helped to organise and run the workshop.

“Traditional fire management requires a holistic approach, taking into account the soil, flora and fauna,’ Mick said.

“The country determines the management approach. There should be no signs of damage from fire activities to parent species and proper cultural burning allows fauna to escape. It is used by Aboriginal people to enhance the health of the land and its people.’

In most parts of south east Queensland, cultural burning knowledge has been lost due to the displacement of people, disconnection from the land and not having any land to practice on.

Mick said that due to settlement, these important skills were not passed on to the next generation, nor between the different groups; knowledge that is fundamental for Aboriginal people to manage their country.

‘Using workshops allows for knowledge transfer to happen, which will reinvigorate fire knowledge between language groups of south east Queensland.’

In addition to new skills, a key outcome of the workshop was networking among Traditional Owners. Groups can now discuss their ventures and desires to undertake burning practices.

Find out more

The Australian Government funds the Bunya Mountains Murri Ranger Group through the Indigenous Rangers - Working on Country program to manage their traditional lands.