The recently released State of the Environment Report has attracted a lot of media attention. This article in The Conversation looks at what the report says in relation to cultural burning and ‘institutional’ bushfire management programs – ‘planned’ or ‘prescribed’ burns.
While the article refers to 25 years of research in the ‘stone country’ of the Arnhem Land Plateau, one of the observations is that ‘once the ecological benefits of cultural burning are lost, they cannot be simply restored with mainstream fire management approaches’ using the cypress pine (Callitris spp.) as a case study.
One of the differences the article highlights is that ‘institutional fire management’ tends to be large-scale, and ‘based on concepts of efficiency and generality. It is controlled by bureaucracies, and achieved using machines and technologies’. It is an ‘industrial approach’ rather than using ‘place-based’ knowledge and close relationships with Country.
Bu can we use both traditional knowledge and technology? A recently webinar by Australian Wildlife Conservancy on jointly-managed areas in the Kimberley highlighted that helicopters were being used to conduct cultural burning in remote locations. Instead of the helicopter flying a ‘standard’ pattern and the operator dropping incendiaries at regular intervals, the approach was that a traditional owner/elder for each patch of Country would be in the helicopter and determine precisely where fire was to be released into the landscape. Many helicopter trips no doubt, but sounds like a great example of combining and using knowledge, connections and technology.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 onwards. Location 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.
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.
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 …
Come along to one or both of these two upcoming Talking Fire events:
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 Fire. For more information: Talkingfire.org or Talking Fire on Facebook.
This project is supported by the Mount Alexander Shire Council Community Grants Program.