Local Elders share cultural burning knowledge at Batemans Bay
The NSW Government attended a cultural burn, on the eve of NAIDOC week at Nellingen last week organised by the Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Council.
The cultural burn was an opportunity to support the renewal of culture through the use of fire while promoting knowledge sharing with Crown Lands’ bushfire mitigation staff demonstrating a commitment to learn and engage with Aboriginal knowledge systems that have cared for Country for millennia.
The majority of land in the area was previously burnt in the 2019–2020 bushfires, but the 6-hectare area covered by the cultural burn was spared. The cultural burn aimed to help nurture the land, which was crucial given the wider impacts of the previous bushfires.
Cultural burning is not an alternate method of hazard reduction but rather a cultural practice that follows protocols involving Elders and knowledge holders who lead and conduct burns in a way that responds to the health of Country. This may also reduce fuel loads (vegetation) and therefore minimise the potential impacts of a bushfire on life, property, and the environment.
Separately, Crown Lands will be supporting an Aboriginal community-led expansion of cultural burning to heal Country and assist with bushfire mitigation.
The Bushfire Inquiry into the 2019–2020 bushfires recommended the government adopt cultural burning as a component of broader traditional Aboriginal land management programs that can provide social, environmental, cultural and environmental benefits.
Minister for Lands and Property Steve Kamper said:
“The 2023 theme for NAIDOC Week is focused on Aboriginal Elders, including the role they play as knowledge holders and teachers, so it’s fitting to acknowledge the thousands of years of cultural experience involved in practices such as cultural burning.
“Crucially for Aboriginal people, cultural burning is about being connected to and caring for Country. It helps maintain healthy, ecologically diverse and productive landscapes with Aboriginal people practising their cultural traditions and passing knowledge on through the generations.
“Smaller scale cultural burns may also lead to longer-term bushfire fuel reduction and help protect the environment from high impact intense bushfires that can wipe out native animals and their habitat as well as damage cultural values in the landscape.”
Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Council Project Coordinator Andrew White said:
“This land at Nellingen is significant to the local Walbunja mob and is considered medicine Country that is home to medicinal and other resource plants such as sarsparilla, gardenia, bloodwoods, stringybark, orchids and different types of wattles.
“The Aboriginal community used the area for medicines and also resources from the nearby river including fish, oysters and cockles. This cultural burn was a good step forward bringing the Aboriginal community and Crown Lands together to care for Country."