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Bringing fire back to country in the Upper Hunter

Hunter Local Land Services is working with local Aboriginal communities to bring traditional burning practices back to country.

The Cultural Burn Mentoring Program will run over the next three years, in partnership with nine Local Aboriginal Land Councils and Traditional Owner groups, Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation and Tocal College. The program is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, NSW Government’s Catchment Action NSW and Department of Education and Training.

The program will initially see 22 Aboriginal students complete Conservation and Land Management training, where for the first time cultural burning practices have been included as key modules of the training program.

Hunter Local Land Services Aboriginal Community Officer Jess Wegener said this module will increase community understanding of cultural burn practices and connection to the land.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to be able to build confidence in using Traditional Aboriginal practices to reconnect with culture,” said Jess.

“Hunter Local Land Services has been working with communities over recent years to develop this unique program and reinvigorate cultural burning practices locally.

“This new module and expanded program builds on our previous smaller cultural burns and training opportunities, and we are looking forward to working with the participants on this new expanded program by offering them each a small training scholarship.”

Last week the students met in the Upper Hunter, to commence the mentoring program, with support from Hunter Local Land Services, Firesticks Alliance Aboriginal fire practitioners, Tocal College, Wanaruah LALC and the NSW Rural Fire Service-Hunter Valley.

Students gained skills in on site monitoring, land assessments and developing cultural burn plans with local elders and practitioners, to initiate the cool burn process.

Several sites were selected on both public and LALC lands for the initial training, with some cultural burns conducted, and post burning these will be monitored over coming years, and applied with additional burning as needed. Additional sites in the lower Hunter will be included in the program in coming weeks.

“Over the next three years we will be adding more sites to the program, and we will mentor the students along the way,” said Jess Wegener.

“We are keen to set up demonstration sites in Box Gum Grassy Woodlands in the Upper Hunter to understand how fire can benefit this native vegetation, including suppressing weeds and encouraging native ground-cover and tree regeneration, which could be a potential tool for local farmers”

Box Gum Grassy Woodlands are typical on the Merriwa plateau, and are listed nationally as a threatened ecological community.
Hunter Local Land Services is running a project through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, to manage and protect this significant vegetation by working with farmers, Aboriginal communities and Landcare through to 2023.

Any farmers in the Merriwa district who may be interested in establishing cultural burning demonstration sites, are being asked to contact Adam Bush by email on adam.bush@lls.nsw.gov.au or by calling our Scone office on (02) 6540 2400.