22 May 2022
IN PHOTOS: CULTURAL BURNS ON NARUNGGA AND NUKUNU COUNTRY REIGNITING RESTORATIVE PRACTICE
Timeless cultural burning practices returned to Narungga and Nukunu Country with low-intensity burns at five sites on Yorke Peninsula and in the southern Flinders region of South Australia. As part of the project, the is collaborating with First Nations people, and to restore ancient traditional land management on Country, with funding from WWF-Australia’s program.
Take a look at some inspiring images of meaningful teamwork in action below.
"One of the most significant Aboriginal land management projects for the Nukunu people"
Nukunu man Travis Thomas said it was one of the most important Aboriginal land management projects for the Nukunu people in many years. “This project marks a return of cultural burning to our people, which was taken from us following colonisation. The use of fire is about looking after Country, connecting with Country and it’s an expression of our culture,” said Mr. Thomas.
“This cultural burning project also has broader benefits to the landscape and all people", Mr Thomas continues. "With an increase in cultural burning comes a reduction of fuel loads and a reduced risk of wildfires.”
To help get this vital work underway, the project team turned to Tagalaka man and Firesticks’ Lead Fire Practitioner Victor Steffensen, who holds fire workshops across Australia, to share his knowledge with First Nations people taking part in the project.
What is cultural burning?
Also known as fire-stick farming, cultural burning is a complex practice based on low intensity, cool burns with low flame height, that destroy weeds and promote native vegetation regrowth, particularly grasses. It is a return to the traditional practices of Aboriginal communities that used fire as one of their tools to manage the land.
Cultural burns are the result of several months of planning
Cultural burns are the result of several months of planning, which began last year with Mr Steffensen joining Narungga and Nukunu representatives in visiting potential burning sites between Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park and Ardrossan on Yorke Peninsula and from Beetaloo Valley to Wilmington in the southern Flinders Ranges.
After the four-day road trip through Narungga and Nukunu Country, the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board held a workshop in Clare with attendees from the Department for Environment and Water (DEW), Country Fire Service, Metropolitan Fire Service, local government, the Native Vegetation Council and First Nations people, who have all played a part.
Back: Peta Standley, Training Services and Research Manager, Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation, Ben Stubbs, University of South Australia, Nukunu man Travis Thomas, Nukunu man Darryl Thomas, Beverley Thomas, Banksia Thomas, Casey Van Sebille, Kaurna, Narungga, Kokatha man Clem Newchurch, Jayne Boase, University of South Australia, Katie Doyle, Nukunu man Lindsay Thomas, Heather Thomas, Nukunu man Laurie Thomas, Tagalaka man and Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation’s Lead Fire Practitioner Victor Steffensen, Wayne Gaskon, Senior Park Ranger, National Parks and Wildlife Service SA, Gerry Turpin, Ethno-Botanist, Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation, Danny Doyle, District Manager, National Parks and Wildlife Service SA, Narungga man Rick Slager, Nukunu man Jared Thomas. Front: Mel Ford, Lil Walsh, Delilah Thomas and Anita Nedosyko © 2022 Matt Turner, Northern and Yorke Landscape Board
The project culminated with five burns led by Mr Steffensen with the involvement of about 20 First Nations people. The burns were held at Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park, on private land near Warooka, at a grasslands site in Ardrossan, at Beetaloo Reservoir and at a property near Wilmington.
Northern and Yorke Landscape Board Aboriginal Partnerships Officer Matthew Turner said it was an exciting opportunity for the region, as cultural burning has become rare in southern Australia since colonisation.
“Nukunu and Narungga have not burnt on Country for a very long time,” he said. “They are interested in burning for a range of reasons – it’s good for Country, good for bush tucker and importantly, it’s an expression of culture.”
This project is jointly funded through the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water, WWF-Australia and Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.
Other partners actively involved in developing and delivering the project include Regional Development Australia, South Australian Tourism Commission, Zoos SA, FAUNA Research Alliance, BirdLife Australia, Nature Conservation Society of SA, Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation, Primary Producers SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Legatus Group, Yorke Peninsula Council, Yorke Peninsula Tourism and Scientific Expedition Group.