Cultural Burning is Caring on Country


WWF-Australia supports Indigenous Rangers healing Country by reintroducing cultural burning as a traditional Aboriginal land management practice.

As we’re burning Country, we’re healing it.

Warren Foster, Elder and Knowledge Holder for the Yuin Nation

All over Australia, cultural burning is returning to Country. For thousands of years, Indigenous people have been using “fire as a friend, not a foe” to look after their sacred landscape. 

Cultural burning is taking care of nature, to help it look after us. After two centuries of being removed from their lands, and therefore unable to practice it, Indigenous-led organisations are bringing traditional fire management back to Country.

What is Cultural Burning?

Cultural burning (also known as Cool Burning) is a traditional Aboriginal land management practice that has been used for over 60,000 years to reduce fire hazards, encourage new growth of culturally-significant species, and protect native wildlife already living on Country. Traditional fire management generates far less heat than standard hazard reduction burning, and is carried out more frequently during certain times of the seasonal calendar.

Benefits of Cultural Burning:

  • Reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires
  • Regenerating native flora in your local area
  • protecting native animal habitats
  • Maintaining the condition of the tree canopy around the cultural burn site, which is vital for:
    • ensuring shade in the bush
    • providing a safe haven for vulnerable canopy animals from ground predators
    • providing shelter for animals during fire and;
    • lowering carbon output (as large canopy fires release mass amounts of carbon into the air).
  • Stimulating seed germination on the ground which improves soil and becomes a food source of food for native animals.
  • Providing natural therapeutic benefit for fauna, such as wallabies and birds who bathe in cool ash to cleanse themselves and control lice.
  • Strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander connection to Country
  • cultural burning is an important way for Elders to pass on their Traditional Knowledge to younger generations. This makes sure that the cultural practice grows stronger
  • Repeating the practice over the seasons makes the land more resilient, and benefits the people who rely on it

(Source: Watarrka Foundation)

There are Indigenous-led, Country-focussed organisations dedicated to this culturally-safe practice. They are driven to nurture  understanding and expansion of ‘right-way’ fire across Australia. Mob are passionate about protecting and passing on the Knowledge to future generations. WWF-Australia supports Indigenous-led cultural fire projects, so First Peoples can carry on enriching culture, biodiversity and this unique way to Regenerate Australia.

Supporting Indigenous-led cultural fire management

WWF-Australia’s Indigenous Engagement team continues to work with Indigenous leaders, communities and land managers to support the Indigenous-led revitalisation of cultural fire management across our landscapes. We are strengthening existing relationships and developing new connections with nature-focussed Indigenous organisations on Country. 

WWF-Australia proudly works together with mob to implement tailored, community-led approaches. This work enhances the capacity of Indigneous-led organisations, and removes barriers commonly faced by cultural fire practitioners. Guided by Indigenous leaders, our support has been designed to prioritise the needs of the individual communities we work with.

Case Study: Supporting the Yuin community to revitalise cultural fire

WWF-Australia’s ongoing support for cultural fire is expanding in regions chosen for their social, cultural and ecological values, particularly in 2019-2020 bushfire-affected regions. Our relationship with the Yuin community on the NSW South Coast centres around support for mob-led organisations including Firesticks Alliance, Bega Local Aboriginal Land Council, and Black Duck Foods. 

Our Indigenous Engagement team also engage directly with key Indigenous community leaders and knowledge holders on Country. The South Coast is a focus for our work due to the strong cultural ties throughout the Yuin community, presence of experienced traditional fire management knowledge holders, high ecological and cultural values of local species and ecosystems, and the severe impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires.

WWF-Australia has also extended support outside these target geographies through our continued investment in key organisations such as the Firesticks Alliance and Aboriginal Carbon Foundation. These organisations work with Indigenous groups across Australia to support Indigenous knowledge systems, help with resource development and community engagement, and to encourage legislative change. Our shared goal is the revitalisation of cultural fire management, and we are passionate about supporting them in their endeavours.

Vital Cultural Fire Knowledge and Relationships

WWF-Australia is proud to support mob working tirelessly to continue achieving the benefits of this long-standing practice.