Traditional fire practices to be discussed in Thora

Cultural burns hold an important place in Gumbaynggirr tradition. Photo: Ciaron Dunn.

THE emotive subject of fire is the topic of an upcoming Malaami Conversations event entitled ‘Waagay’.

“Waagay/fire is a celebration of fire and knowledge where fire is not merely an element, but a bridge to our past and a beacon for our future,” a Malaami Conversations spokesperson told News Of The Area.

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The discussion takes place at Thora General Store on Saturday 25 May.

Organised by the Bellingen-based Centre for Ecological Learning (CEL), in partnership with Yurruungga Aboriginal Corporation, the offering is curated to be a special opportunity to connect with the wisdom of traditional fire practitioners who will share the importance of cultural burning within Gumbaynggirr culture.

This is the first of a series of four Malaami Conversations themed on the four elements: Waagay (fire), Wajarr (earth), Ngaarul (water) and Muya-ngarra (air).

Dean Kelly and Brentyn Lugnan, from the Yurruungga Aboriginal Corporation, said cultural burning is a revered practice for First Nations people.

“It has been preserved through generations, reflecting the strong bond between the Gumbaynggirr people and the land.

“This event will demonstrate the beautiful nature of fire when used with respect and wisdom, showing how it can be a force for nurturing and renewal.”

Dean and Brentyn will delve into the art of flames and the stories they tell, demonstrating the careful use of fire in enriching the earth, enhancing biodiversity, and protecting the community from wildfires.

“Waagay is more than an event; it’s an embodiment of the harmony between human stewardship and the natural environment,” they said.

The Yurruungga Aboriginal Corporation is supporting the event as it aligns with its commitment to integrating traditional Gumbaynggirr knowledge with contemporary climate resilience efforts.

“The day’s focus on cultural burning practices and care of waterways resonates with our values of environmental stewardship and community empowerment.

“Through this initiative, we aim to foster knowledge sharing and collaboration, ensuring a holistic approach to managing our lands while honouring the wisdom of our ancestors.

“We believe that the Malaami Waagay Conversations is a vital step towards sustainable land management and a testament to the strength of our ongoing cultural legacy.”

Included in the program is an expert panel on fire issues, including cultural burn practitioners and representatives from the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

This will be followed by a demonstration of a small cultural burn on site, weather permitting.

Finally, there will be an interactive ‘Kitchen Table’ session where all participants can discuss and share ideas with the RFS and create plans regarding fire practice in the local areas.

Knowledge holders sharing at this event include RFS Cultural Burn Advisor Jamie Bertram, cultural burn practitioner Rhys Pacey, Waagay knowledge holder Philip Marsden and Gumbaynggirr elder Richard Kelly.

This not-for-profit event has been supported by grant funding from Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA).

There is no charge for First Nations people.

Visit the ‘Yurruungga Aboriginal Corporation’ Facebook page for more information.

In the case of wet weather, the event will move to the Thora Community Hall.


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