Bringing life back to the land

 

Cultural fire is bringing life back to the land and connecting people to country across Victoria.


As part of this practice, fire is deliberately put in to the landscape authorised and led by Traditional Owners of that Country. This is done for a variety of purposes, including: ceremony, protection of cultural and natural assets, fuel reduction, regeneration and management of food, fibre and medicines, flora regeneration, fauna habitat protection and healing Country’s spirit.
Cultural fire is an enduring area of knowledge and practice managed and passed on through the generations. 

This piece explores aspects of Wurundjeri Elder Dave Wandin’s journey in cultural fire, dispels and debunks some of the common misconceptions around cultural burning. It also extracts key parts of the newly launched Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy through voices of key Traditional Owners and a senior state government adviser.

For the full strategy click here.

Wurundjeri Elder Dave Wandin.

Wurundjeri Elder Dave Wandin.

For Uncle Dave Wandin, the significance of the Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy lays in its very core – he says at the heart of the strategy, it enhances and embeds his cultural rights, not only for him as a Wurundjeri Elder, but for all Aboriginal Victorians. 

 

“It is all about forgetting our borders and caring for Country as a whole … cultural fire means everything. It means healing Country and when you heal Country, you heal people.”
Uncle Dave Wandin.

 

This is something he says has always been instilled in him, but it wasn’t until a good friend approached him one day around the time of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and asked him for his advice around managing Country and he says he is the first to admit, that back then, he didn’t quite know the right answer.

 

But that didn’t stop him from finding out, and if anything, he says it sparked something inside to embark on a new journey and for the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to absorb and share as much of his cultural history and knowledge as possible, particularly around cultural fire. 


Listen to the audio below to hear Uncle Dave reflect on his journey as he relives this reawakening period in his life.

Uncle Dave then goes on to tell us about something symbolic his father once told him about the importance of knowledge sharing. 

Wurundjeri Elder Dave Wandin with a copy of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy.

Wurundjeri Elder Dave Wandin with a copy of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy.

Uncle Dave says Australia is now asking for that advice and it’s the right time too.

This is why he is encouraging people to take the time to read the newly launch Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy.

“It’s a path we need to walk together, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” he says.

Uncle Dave says people should be open-minded in their approach too as there is no need to be afraid or apprehensive about cultural burning as he moves to dispel some of the common misconceptions around the practice.

“A key message to take away from this strategy is to realise that it is a strategy. It is a living document. We’ll be making tweaks along the way, but just because there many be some hiccups, don’t give up, because we need it.” - Uncle Dave Wandin.

Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy Launch at Nioka Bush Camp.

Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy Launch at Nioka Bush Camp.

BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE STRATEGY

  • The Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy articulates the aspirations of Traditional Owners to practice cultural burning and ensure knowledge about cultural fire is sustained through generations.

  • The Strategy provides a set of principles and strategic priorities that support Traditional Owner-led cultural fire management in Victoria.

  • The Strategy was authored by Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Knowledge Group, supported by the FVTOC, DELWP, PV and CFA.

  • Traditional Owners will lead the implementation of the strategy, with support from DELWP, PV and CFA.

A recent cultural burn on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. Photo: Rafe Pfitzner.

A recent cultural burn on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. Photo: Rafe Pfitzner.

Proud Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman and NRM Committee Chair Wendy Berick at the launch of the fire strategy at Nioka Bush Camp.

Proud Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman and NRM Committee Chair Wendy Berick at the launch of the fire strategy at Nioka Bush Camp.

Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman and NRM Committee Chair Wendy Berick engaged with Traditional Owners around their cultural knowledge during the development of the strategy and was key to its life-form. Wendy says the strategy is so powerful and so meaningful is because it is Traditional Owner-led and designed and she spoke to us about the shift within government in the creation of the strategy.

Click on the audio below to hear what she has to say about this.

Hamish Webb, who is the Director of Knowledge and Planning at DELWP, echoes Wendy’s sentiments and told us that this project was entirely based on creating a safe space that was underpinned by trust.

Hear what Hamish has to say about the relationship between Traditional Owners and government below.

Chair of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy Project Control Group and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter at a recent burn with his daughter, Natasha Carter. Photo: Rafe Pfitzner.

Chair of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy Project Control Group and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter at a recent burn with his daughter, Natasha Carter. Photo: Rafe Pfitzner.

Chair of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy Project Control Group and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter spoke to us about the significance of the strategy itself and its rarity, in that its one of a kind.

Going forward

 Meaningful agency support for the implementation of the Strategy will require significant time to be placed into building relationships and the State supporting a transition in contemporary fire management towards a more culturally appropriate, Traditional Owner led approach to fire management.

The implementation of the Strategy will need long-term financial support to enable further development of knowledge, practice and capacity in Traditional Owners to undertake cultural fire practice and to ensure operational feasibility of cultural burning in a changed environment. The protection of traditional fire knowledge is critical. The sharing of this knowledge must always be led by Traditional Owners.

The Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Knowledge Group will require continued financial and secretariat support to lead the implementation of the Strategy, and to continue to meet and collaborate at a state-wide strategic level to share knowledge and experiences to further strengthen Traditional Owners role in caring for Country by reintroducing Cultural Fire. 

The further development of a complementary cultural fire research program will require further investment.


For further comment or information please contact Alexandra Sheehy on 0420 314 221.

Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations
PO Box 431, North Melbourne VIC 3051
t: (03) 9321 5300
Website: www.fvtoc.com.au

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land we work on as the First People of this country.