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Firesticks Alliance: Reinvigorating Australia’s cultural fire knowledge

Copyright Firesticks. Firesticks Practitioner and Gumea-Dharrawal man Jacob Morris tending the Cultural Burn at the Bundanon National Indigenous Fire workshop 2018.

The Firesticks Alliance is an Indigenous led organisation that works with communities, land and fire agencies and organisations across Australia.

Indigenous knowledge of culture and country, skills and experience in both cultural burns and contemporary fire management practices present a unique opportunity to reinvigorate Australia’s cultural fire knowledge to heal Country across Australia.

Evidence shows where cultural burning has been implemented, it has dramatically helped protect communities from bushfires and importantly looked after country and wildlife.

The Firesticks Alliance is led by Indigenous cultural fire practitioners from across Australia who predominantly volunteer their time. Throughout this bushfire crisis, the Alliance has been inundated with requests for help from the Australian public, Government and non-Government agencies at all levels, fire authorities, organisations, property owners and land managers. Firesticks have limited staff resources and we need help from the broader Australian and International community so we can share and grow this unique knowledge.

Firesticks is calling for investment to support cultural fire knowledge holders and mentors across Australia. In the short term, they aim to help affected communities through local workshops and technical advice on urgent rehabilitation actions. In the longer-term their plan is to reimplement Cultural fire regimes. This will be combined with their vision to train and mentor over 100 Firesticks accredited cultural fire practitioners, equipped with skills in cultural fire knowledge, contemporary fire management and emergency response skills.

This national program will be rolled out through a number of hubs established across Australia. All country is different and locally appropriate cultural protocols and fire regimes are the key to success.

If you would like to support this ambitious project please do so via the Firesticks Alliance's Chuffed crowdfunding page

Oliver Costello, CEO, Firesticks Alliance (@olicostello), said: “For millennia, Indigenous people have maintained highly sophisticated cultural fire regimes which have adapted to changing conditions to ensure safe communities and healthy landscapes. Since colonisation, many Indigenous people have been removed from their land, and their cultural fire management practices have been constrained by authorities, informed by Western views of fire and land management.

Indigenous communities across Australia have been steadily increasing and sharing their cultural fire knowledge through projects such as the National Indigenous Fire Workshop and local community driven fire projects.Cultural Fire

Practitioner and Yuin man Noel Webster, said: “Indigenous cultural burns have protected communities from wildfires while protecting and enhancing the biodiversity within the environment. This is evident in places
like Ulladulla and Jubullum in NSW.”

Cultural fire researcher Dr. Peta Standley explains, “The devastation we are seeing across much of Australia has occurred due to a lack of the right fire management. Fire not being used at all and fire in the landscape at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and done the wrong way. How fire is used dramatically influences how fire behaves and the impacts or benefits it has. We have observed many examples of negative impacts from Western fire management. This occurs due to the extensive suppression of fire and the incorrect application of fire in hazard reduction and back burning practices which can destroy the canopy, change the structure of the vegetation, soil function, moisture and species present. It can open up areas for invasive plants, in many cases generating fire prone vegetation which has likely been a factor in the current crisis along with the drought and climate.”

Firesticks Alliance Directors assert “Our knowledge and practices are a proven part of the solution to helping Australia manage its growing bushfire risk. We call on all levels of Government to collaborate with us to support organisations undertaking cultural burning and enable them to educate others so that the next round of bushfires in Australia destroys fewer lives and homes.”

If you would like to help go to their crowdfunding page.

You can find more information on the Firesticks Alliance website.

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