COVID strikes again!

I have some bad news – COVID has struck one of our Djaara fire practitioners and we again need to postpone Workshop 1 in the Fire for Healthy Country series that was scheduled for next Saturday 28 May.

I have emailed everyone who has booked, including those on the waiting list. I will post the new date here and to all booked participants (etc) as soon as I can.

What can I say but … rats! Such tricky times.

Maldon area; fire, ecology, people – can they all co-exist?

Workshop 1 – Sat 28 May

Workshop 1 will be held on Sat 28 May, 10am-3pm (or 4pm). Dates for Workshops 2 and 3 are likely to be June and August respectively. Fingers crossed that COVID doesn’t trip us up again!

If you have booked already, you’ll get an email via Humanitix as well. If you can’t attend, please let us know as there is a waiting list. If you want to attend and haven’t booked, please use the link on our main webpage and add yourself to the waiting list.

Our workshops will be guided by Amos Atkinson and Mick Bourke, both Djaara fire practitioners. Workshop 2 will involve the Djandak crew and DELWP.

And don’t forget, you need to do Workshop 1 to be involved in Workshop 2, and do your Basic Wildfire Awareness to be on the ground during Workshop 2.

Fire for Healthy Country: an update

Having postponed the workshops in September 2021 – with the challenges posed by COVID and the season – we’ve taken the time to set up vegetation and bird survey transects – details below.

The proposed djandak wi – the Djaara traditional burning approach – has been approved by DELWP for the Newstead-Spring Hill Track area in Autumn 2022. No dates have yet been set for the initial workshop, nor for the burn. We’ll post an update once these are known.

Establishing a vegetation baseline

Karl Just, project ecologist, has established 20 vegetation transects, each 50 metres long and grouped in pairs at 10 separate sites. All run north-south. Along each transect, Karl has established 10 one metre square quadrats. In each quadrat Karl has recorded all vascular plant species and ground cover estimates including bryophytes/lichen, bare ground, rock, litter and course woody debris. Listen to Karl explaining the approach in this short video.

Karl Just setting up the transects and recording the plants within a 1 square metre quadrat.

His aim is to create baseline vegetation sampling prior to the proposed cultural burn – djandak wi – that will be undertaken by Dja Dja Wurrung across an area of approx. 21 hectares to the east of the Newstead-Maldon Road.

As well as the 16 transects in the djandak wi area, two additional monitoring sites (4 transects) have been established within the adjoining area burnt by DELWP in autumn 2021.

Karl describes the area as open forest dominated by relatively young growing trees: Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos), Silver Bundy (Eucalyptus nortonii) and Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), with understorey shrubs varying from sparse to locally dense patches, with the most prominent species including Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Sifton Bush (Cassinia sifton) and Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis). Overall the higher slopes and ridges support a
higher diversity and cover of ground-layer species, with large areas of the lower flats supporting few ground-layer plants and extensive bare ground, bryophytes and litter. Overall he has recorded 95 vascular plant species were recorded across the djandak wi area, including 77 species in the transects and 18 species recorded incidentally outside the transects. Of these 79 are indigenous and 16 are introduced (but overall weed cover is low).

The most diverse areas on the higher ground contain a rich suite a of small shrubs, grasses, lilies, orchids and forbs including Gorse Bitter-pea (Daviesia ulicifolia), Slender Rice-flower (Pimelea linifolia) Red-anther Wallaby-grass (Rytidosperma pallidum), Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii), Chocolate Lily (Arthropodium strictum), Autumn Greenhood (Pterostylis ampliata), Hood Orchid (Caladenia fuscata) Blue Fairy (Cyanicula caerulea), Rayless Daisy (Brachyscome perpusilla) and Murnong (Microseris walteri).

Thirty-five of the plant species recorded across the burn area have been identified as cultural plants, having documented uses for food, fibre or tool making. Others may be important medicinally or for other cultural reasons.

Bird survey transects

The Muckleford Forest Friends Group (MFFG) has a number of bird survey transects across the Muckleford Forest., each designed to build a more complete record of the bird species found here. Surveys are done quarterly and the results are added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas – the primary information source used by DELWP when it considers management actions, including planned burns.

Two new transects were set up by Geoff Nevill and Deb Shaw in September 2021 and are now being surveyed quarterly. The method used is the Birdlife 20 minute, 2 hectare survey.

As well, MMFG, with the support of DELWP and assistance of Geoff Park, reviewed a decade or so of bird records from Geoff’s Natural Newstead blog and have added these to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

Rescheduled …

Cultural burn: NSW (courtesy ABC)

We have made the big decision to reschedule our program of community workshops to Autumn 2022. With COVID lockdowns and restrictions we just couldn’t go ahead on 14 August, and if we delayed a couple of weeks, then would we be running too late to have ‘right fire’?

The advice from Djaara was that with wattles blooming, the sun getting warmer and spring winds starting, it may be too late for a safe and productive cultural burn. And of course, we might have a wet spring … so many unknowns!

So the decision has been made:

March: Workshop 1 – Understanding the need to burn.Looking at the land from Djaara and western ecological perspectives. What are the values here, and what are the concerns? Held on-Country.

April/May: Workshop 2 – Right way fire. Undertaking one or a series of small cultural burns. The timing will be determined by the conditions.

May/June: Workshop 3 – Learning through yarning. Afterwards a chance to learn, share experiences and outcomes, and setting up for monitoring – held on-Country.

The Humanitix booking site will be updated soon.

We’ll post updates through our website and facebook: stay tuned!

Fire for Healthy Country: Workshop bookings open!

How can fire help us create healthy Country? And what kind of fire? Used when, how and by whom?

Our second Talking Fire event in November 2018 focused on Djandak Wi – the term used by Djaara – Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Traditional Owners for our part of Central Victoria – for the process of returning cultural fire to Country.

Now Talking Fire is partnering with Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation to create opportunities for our community to deepen and transform our understanding of how to care for our local landscape. Djaara knowledge and experience will be shared through a practical experience of using fire as a way of caring for Country.

Together we want to enhance biodiversity, build community awareness and confidence in the use of fire, support new land holder skills, address community safety, and support Djaara in increasing their capacity to apply Djandak Wi to public and private land. A big agenda!

The project will be structured around three on-Country workshops to be held from May through to July (or later depending on the season). Each event will be a pre-booked COVID Safe event. For 2021, the area proposed is the southern section of the Bruce’s Track planned burn.

Community Workshop bookings are now open

Bookings for our three workshops are now open; fingers crossed and COVID willing! The location for the three workshops will be on Country – within the area proposed for Djandak Wi in the Muckleford Forest. There will also be a community event in the Community Centre in Newstead in October.

  • Workshop 1 – Understanding the need to burn. Looking at the land from Djaara and western ecological perspectives. What are the values here, and what are the concerns? Held on-Country. NEW DATE: Saturday 14 August, 12.00pm onwardsLocation will be confirmed after booking.
  • Workshop 2 – Right way fire: Undertaking one or a series of small cultural burns. The timing will be determined by the conditions. August date to be confirmed based on conditions.
  • Workshop 3 – Learning through yarning: Afterwards a chance to learn, share experiences and outcomes, and setting up for monitoring – held on-Country. September – date to be confirmed.

If you want to attend Workshop 2 – the actual cultural burn, you must attend Workshop 1 and complete Basic Wildfire Awareness, a short online training course (it takes around 3-4 hours) or in-person training – see below. When you book for these workshops, you will be asked whether you want to attend online or in-person training, and then you will be contacted with details of how to register.

Numbers are limited for Workshops 1 & 2, so please only book if you can commit to attending.

Click here to book: ticket price $10 (inc booking fee).

The Basic Wildfire Awareness training is designed to teach staff and contractors a basic awareness of fire behaviour, fire suppression techniques, safety and survival during wildfire and planned burn operations. Online training is done in your own time. There may be spaces available in a 1-day face-to-face training option in Bendigo on either 18 or 19 August.

Post-burn monitoring

The project includes a three years of post-burn monitoring, and we are keen to recruit volunteers with local plant knowledge to the monitoring team.

To get updates, follow the Talking Fire website (talkingfire.org), Talking Fire on Facebook.

Supported by the Wettenhall Environment Trust as part of their Burning Country program

Fire for Healthy Country

Cultural burn: Wooragee Landcare Workshop with Elder Uncle Ron Mason (2019)

Working with Dja Dja Wurrung and DELWP, the Talking Fire project is planning a Djandak Wi cultural burn over the winter months.

Djandak Wi is the term used by Djaara – Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Traditional Owners for our part of Central Victoria – for the process of returning cultural fire to Country.

The project seeks to deepen and transform our understanding of how to care for our local landscape by bringing Djaara knowledge and experience into a practical experience of using fire as a way of caring for Country.

Since we announced the project in the Newstead Echo in February 2021, we have been looking at potential public land locations, talking about practicalities, and inviting key local organisations to get involved. The chosen location is in the Muckleford Forest, close to the Newstead-Maldon Road, and part of the proposed planned burn area known as ‘Bruce’s Track’.

You can find out more about the project on this webpage. You might also like to look at some of the resources on Aboriginal cultural burning that we have added to our Resources page.

Please head to our home page to ‘follow’ Talking Fire for updates on this project and to learn how you can be part of one or more of our workshops or yarning sessions.

Or you can follow Talking Fire on Facebook.


Talking Fire is a project of Newstead 2021 Inc and was initiated by the Muckleford Forest Friends Network. Talking Fire aims to support and initiate community conversations to build understandings of the place of fire in our landscape.

The Fire for Health Country project in Newstead is supported by Wettenhall Environment Trust as a pilot in their Burning Country program.

Hear Stephen Pyne talk on fire policy

I heard Stephen speak last year. He brings an extraordinary perspective on the history of the development of fire policies in the USA, and in parallel here in Australia. His analysis points to the many failures in these policies – in the past and today.

Here are five opportunities to hear him:

Living with Fire: Tues 6 August, 9.30am-2pm,
La Trobe University City Campus Level 20, 360 Collins St, Melbourne.
Bookings essential – Eventbrite ($40/$20 concession)

Humans have been living with fire in the landscape for millennia. However, different groups within society (e.g. indigenous people, urban and rural residents, scientists, govt land management agencies and politicians) can have quite different views on the place of fire in the landscape. Many climatologists predict that the frequency, severity and extent of bushfires will increase under most future climate change scenarios.

La Trobe University’s Centre for the Study of the Inland and its Research Centre for Future Landscapes are bringing people together to discuss constructive ways of valuing different cultural perspectives on living with fire, to address this growing challenge in a sustainable and holistic manner.

With the renowned Professor Stephen Pyne (Arizona State University) delivering the keynote address, followed by presentations from Lee Miezis (Deputy Secretary, Forest, Fire and Regions DELWP, Professor Dick Williams (Charles Darwin University, formerly with CSIRO, Dr Tim Neale (Deakin Uni, ) and Trent Nelson (Parks Vic) and ending with a panel discussion with all the presenters, this will be a seminar not to be missed. Includes morning tea and lunch.

Fire’s American Century:
Wed 7 August, 6-8pm, Melbourne Museum Theatrette.
Bookings essential – Eventbrite – Free

Renowned environmental historian, Professor Stephen Pyne, is the speaker for the 2019 Bernard Bailyn Lecture in North American History. Stephen Pyne will outline how the American fire scene and national policies have evolved from the late 19th century to the early 21st. No-one has written more extensively on fire than Stephen Pyne. And it isn’t only American fires that have piqued his curiosity over the years.

Planning for the Pyrocene: Stephen Pyne and Tom Griffiths
Sunday 11 August, 3.00-4.00pm, Strategem Studio
Bendigo Writers Festival: Ticket for this event

Here we are, in 2019, and it seems we have no idea how to manage fire in our combustible landscape. Does controlled burning help or hinder? What have we learnt from the devastating deadly fires of recent years? Stephen J Pyne has written many books on fire management, including A Fire History of Australia and Fire on Earth. Following the Californian fires of 2018, he has written about the new age we are now entering, calling it the “pyrocene”. Stephen talks with Tom Griffiths about how communities can plan with confidence by understanding their environments and how they are changing.

There are also two other events at the Bendigo Writers Festival:

Fire People: Chloe Hooper, Stephen Pyne, Sian Gard
Friday 9 August, 3.15-4.15, Bendigo Bank Theatre
Bendigo Writers Festival: Day or Festival Pass holders only

There are those who light them and those who fight them. Beyond headlines about the ever-increasing danger of fire, the devastation of a firestorm, and the losses that follow, from out of the communities affected come the stories about what happened and how it makes them feel. Stephen Pyne and Chloe Hooper talk to Sian Gard about the way fire changes lives, and about finding ways to describe those experiences. Can writing get close to conveying both the fire and the people whose lives are marked indelibly by it?

Fieldwork:
Saturday 10 August, 1.15-2.15pm, Capital Theatre
Bendigo Writers Festival: Day or Festival Pass holders only
What do we know about the places we live, the bush, the towns by the side of bitumen and dirt, the people who live and work beyond the city cluster? It’s through the curiosity and patient effort of writers who make the journeys and spend time asking the questions that we come to understand the country and people’s place in it. Paul Barclay is joined by three “fieldwork” writers – Gabrielle Chan, Kim Mahood and Stephen Pyne – to ask about where they go, how they travel, what they take with them and what they bring back.

Returning cultural burning to Country – Djandak Wi

Thursday 29 November 7.30pm. Newstead Community Centre (9 Lyons Street, Newstead).
All welcome, no booking required.

Come and hear Scott Falconer (Assistant Chief Fire Officer with FFMVic) share his experience in the United States and Canada where he explored the involvement of Indigenous people in land and fire management. Scott’s research was supported through The Lord Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal Churchill Fellowship. He was accompanied by Trent Nelson, Dja Dja Wurrung man and Parks Victoria Ranger Team Leader for part of the research trip. Read more …

Talking Fire November Events

Come along to one or both of these two upcoming Talking Fire events:

Budj Bim Rangers – Josh Ferguson & Sean Bell: Cultural Burning on the Kurtonitj IPA (South-West Victoria)

Building community capacity & confidence: Thursday 29 November – 7.30-9.15pm, Newstead Community Centre

Changing how we think about and manage fire in our local landscape means reflecting on our concerns, our capacities and our confidence in current practices and in any proposed changes. What might reviving Indigenous burning practices mean for example? Join us for a presentation on the value of community dialogue to foster shared knowledge and responsibility. All welcome. Free – gold coin donation appreciated!

Reviving Indigenous burning practices: Community Search Conference: Friday 30 November 9am-5pm, Newstead Community Centre

Join expert panellists at our Community Search Conference for a chance to explore how we might connect Indigenous fire traditions with current approaches to fuel reduction and planned burns to shape new ways to protect our landscape and communities. All welcome. The Community Search Conference is free but please book by Friday 23 November.

Bookings: for the Community Search Conference, email your name, organisation (if applicable), contact phone number and the number of people to Talking FireFor more information: Talkingfire.org or Talking Fire on Facebook. 

This project is supported by the Mount Alexander Shire Council Community Grants Program.

Creative transformations

Fire Stories – part of Newstead’s Words in Winter 2018 – celebrated transformation. In the sunshine of a winter’s afternoon, we gathered, created, reflected and then shared our creations with the fire. Mostly anyway! A few things were held back, suggesting stories that needed to be developed further, or objects that suddenly felt precious!

It was fun and very playful, with an amazing arrange of natural materials – string, leaves, branches, paper, natural ochres and more – used to create objects for the fire. As each person tossed their creation into the fire, with a story,  or a few words or just in silence, it was magical to see their creation turned into some more warm for all of us around the fire.

We’ll post some more images on Talking Fire.