Australia's first cultural burn training program is now underway thanks to funding from Hunter Local Land Services
Interest in cultural burning has dramatically increased since the 2019 Black Summer bushfires that devastated large parts of the east coast of Australia.
Cultural buns based on Indigenous teachings, aids in reducing fuel loads and therefore lessening the likelihood of catastrophic bushfires during periods of intense heat and droughts.
The first of 13 Cultural Burns planned for the Hunter region in 2021 are underway, as part of an Australian first training program to help build knowledge, skills they already have and share understanding of traditional burning and land management practices.
Hunter Local Land Services is supporting Tocal College in developing a Certificate III, IV and Diploma in Conservation and Ecosystem Management, Cultural Burn, in partnership with Firesticks Alliance.
The pilot course is the first tertiary qualified Cultural Burn course to be conducted in Australia. The course teaches Aboriginal land management students in both Aboriginal Fire Knowledge Practices and Western Science to understand the positive ecological impacts of cultural burning and Aboriginal land management practices focussing on Traditional fire management practices and techniques. In the recently commenced pilot there are 30 students enrolled, who come from a diverse range of employment and community backgrounds.
Hunter Local Land Services Aboriginal Community Officer Toby Whaleboat said the course could not have been developed or proceed without the support of local Elders and community, especially allowing the students to work on Country.
"We are so grateful to be working with Traditional owners, our community and Local Aboriginal Councils in the Hunter and Manning Great Lakes, as well as our training partners to deliver this unique course," said Toby Whaleboat.
"The students will get access to some of the best teachers in the country, including Victor Steffensen from Firesticks Alliance, combined with local knowledge passed on through Elders here in our region.
"We're hoping this pilot course could become the model for teaching Cultural Burning knowledge in a formal land management capacity across Australia."
The Cultural Burn Training will be conducted in various vegetation and ecosystems from the coast (Coastal heath) to Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands and open grassy woodlands in the west of the Hunter and will be conducted on high elevated areas such as Mount Sugar Loaf.
Each of the burns is being held on different types of land tenures from Travelling Stock Reserves to privately held properties, teaching the students how to apply the correct fire knowledge to specific types of vegetation to achieve the best outcomes for the landscape.
Monitoring plans will be developed and established to capture data prior to each burn and after each burn.
"One of the major outcomes of our cultural burning program is to offer opportunities for connection to Country for local Aboriginal student and communities, and the opportunity to share cultural knowledge on caring for Country," said Toby.
It's hoped outcomes will include reducing weed infestations, improving the health, function of native vegetation communities, protecting habitat for native animals, and reducing the risks of wildfires, promoting resilient landscapes.