TOUCHING THE FLAME: Gulf Country traditional owner Victor Steffensen is helping the Southern Down's rural fire fighters pass on ancient Aboriginal burning techniques to rural landowners who are facing some of the most dangerous burning conditions they have seen in years.
TOUCHING THE FLAME: Gulf Country traditional owner Victor Steffensen is helping the Southern Down's rural fire fighters pass on ancient Aboriginal burning techniques to rural landowners who are facing some of the most dangerous burning conditions they have seen in years. David Parsons

Aboriginal burning teaches ways to heal land, burn off fuel

FIRE-PRONE conditions have many rural landowners on edge but experts are learning the "scary" conditions of today may take root in years of mismanagement.

Amid dry conditions, rural fire fighters in the Southern Downs will play a vital part in disseminating knowledge of land management practices handed down by Aboriginal elders.

A series of workshops in Crows Nest and Emu Vale over the weekend fanned the flame for a new approach to seasonal burning based on a principle of trying to "heal" the land instead of harming it.

Thirty QFRS volunteers from the Toowoomba and Southern Downs areas spent the weekend on country with Victor Steffensen, whose approach to managing the landscape dates back thousands of years.

"Everything is about healing and applying fire to country is the first step," he said.

Mr Steffensen, a young traditional owner from the Gulf Country in Australia's north, was taught by two Ku-ku Thytan elders in Cape York.

Acting brigade training and support officer Dean Ellis said the workshops shed light on the current conditions faced by rural landowners in South East Queensland.

"Unfortunately at the moment there is a lot of dead fuel so a lot of people are scared and they want to get rid of that fuel and just burn it to feel safer," he said.

"But what the indigenous people are trying to teach us is the reason there is so much fuel is because fires in the past have gone through at the wrong time of year and gone through too hot.

"It's an introduction to us so we can start to consider the concepts and encourage landholders when they come to us for help with their burning."

 

TOUCHING THE FLAME: Gulf Country traditional owner Victor Steffensen is helping the Southern Down's rural fire fighters pass on ancient Aboriginal burning techniques to rural landowners who are facing some of the most dangerous burning conditions they have seen in years.
TOUCHING THE FLAME: Gulf Country traditional owner Victor Steffensen is helping the Southern Down's rural fire fighters pass on ancient Aboriginal burning techniques to rural landowners who are facing some of the most dangerous burning conditions they have seen in years. David Parsons

But he said getting the landscape back into a healthy state would not happen overnight.

"The tricky bit is managing the mitigation of those fuels and getting rid of them at the right time so things can come back to how they should be," he said. "In the future, if we can start applying some of these teachings, the fires won't be so intense and our job should be easier."

The techniques Mr Steffensen passed on involved "reading" the landscape and paying attention to specific types of soil, vegetation and ecological conditions.

Condamine Headwaters Landcare Group chairperson David Parsons attended and said the workshops brought home the importance of treating each scenario individually.

"We saw Victor light a patch of bush where most of the firies would be terrified to light but it flared up and flared down and eventually just went out of its own accord," he said. "Knowing each plant rather than just treating it as a patch of bush is what he was trying to get across."

Mr Parsons thanked Mr Steffensen.

"This is Aboriginal knowledge, we need to continually acknowledge that."



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