LOCAL Gumbaynggirr Land and Sea Rangers have commenced the first cultural burn for the season across Aboriginal owned lands in the Coffs Harbour City Council and Bellingen Shire Council Local Government Areas.
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Nathan Brennan, Chief Executive Officer, Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council, said the burns in Mylestom village fall under the Rural Fire Service Strategic Fire Zone Community Protection Plan.
The rangers are trained in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous practices including Advanced Forest Fire Fighting as well as Indigenous fire practice training with elders and knowledge holders.
“Cultural burning is critical, not only as part of a continuous cultural practice, but plays an integral role in community protection and reducing the threat of wildfire,” Mr Brennan said.
“The Gumbaynggirr people have used fire for thousands of years, and it has been used as a tool by our ancestors to manage the country, enhance biodiversity, replenish food sources and reduce the threat of wildfire”.
Mr Brennan has called for greater investment, legislative reform and support by the NSW Government, Local Government Councils and NSW Agencies for Aboriginal Land and Sea Ranger programs along the New South Wales coastline.
“One of the key challenges facing Aboriginal people from undertaking cultural burning is proper investment and resources. Investment in this space is limited, only through proper reform and the development of programs and investment can Aboriginal people undertake cultural burning activities more frequently.”
Mr Brennan would like to see changes to the Rural Fire Service Act including recognition of Indigenous fire practitioners and use of them as part of community protection and burning off.
He added that fire prescriptions, the periods between burns, need a review.
“The time restrictions mean there can be 15 years between burns which is too infrequent. It creates too much fuel,” Mr Brennan said.
“Aboriginal land management and cultural fire practice not only benefits Aboriginal people, but it benefits the wider community and biodiversity within our region”.
By Sandra MOON