What is Indigenous Aboriginal Cultural Burning?
What makes Aboriginal Cultural Burning different to Hazard Reduction Burning?
“…there is only one fire and that is the right fire and fire for your Country,… ” (Victor Steffensen, ‘Line of Fire’ SBS Insight, 15 February 2016)
Indigenous (Aboriginal) Cultural Burning practices have been identified as a major influence in ‘shaping’ the Country that many European observers described upon their arrival in Australia.
The firesticks project uses the term ‘cultural burning’ to describe burning practices developed by Aboriginal people to enhance the health of the land and its people.
"For thousands of years, Aboriginal people have used fire to preserve and manage the landscape."
Cultural burning can include burning for the health of particular plants, animals and country. It may involve patch burning to create different fire intervals or used specifically for fuel and hazard reduction purposes. Fire may be used to gain better access to country, to clean up important pathways, control invasive weeds or to maintain cultural responsibilities.
Essentially, cultural burning involves applying fire to the bush in a controlled and methodical approach where the fire acts like water in trickling through the country. It moves slow and ‘cool’ and burns in a circular pattern away from single ignition points.
"A cool fire preserves the canopy of trees that provide shade, fruit, flowers, and seeds. During the fire the insects and other small animals can crawl up the trees to safety, while ants and snakes can retreat down into their nests"
Flame height is maintained at ground level and the canopy of native shrub and trees remain unaffected by the relatively low heat of such fire.
In contrast Hazard reduction burns are generally performed as large scale operations that involve lighting up long lines of fire ignited by drip torches that create a virtual wave of heat that roars through the bush. These burns are designed to reduce as much available fuel as possible to protect life and property from wildfire.
However, hazard reduction burns are not always conducive with the ecological values of the bushland.