South Australia’s first fire management strategy driven by Aboriginal cultural burning practices has been released.
It will guide fire management over the next decade across the Witjira National Park, located to the west of the Simpson Desert.
Minister for Environment and Water David Spears said traditional burning regimes will be used to help reduce the bushfire threat while enabling local people to fulfil their cultural responsibilities.
“The strategy is the first of its kind in South Australia,” said Minister Speirs.
“It takes a new approach by combining the traditional and cultural knowledge of the traditional owners with contemporary environmental practices.
“It was recently approved by the board after a public consultation period which resulted in small amendments.”
Witjira National Park is part of the traditional country of the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru people and includes the heritage-listed Dalhousie Springs, used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. It is also home to unique species of fish and aquatic life found nowhere else in the world.
The Witjira Waru Pulka (Fire) Management Strategy was developed by the Witjira National Park Co-management Board, which is made up of Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru people and staff from the Department for Environment and Water.
Aboriginal fire regimes are an important part of caring for country. They can be used to reduce fire fuel and hazards, to improve access to country, water and cultural sites and to ensure the health of plants and animals.
Minister Speirs said the isolated Dalhousie Springs were important for supporting local species.
“Inappropriate fire regimes, whether fires that are too frequent or not frequent enough, could threaten nationally significant species such as the critically endangered Dalhousie gudgeon,” said Minister Speirs.
As well as identifying priority high-risk areas, the strategy considers on-ground works and activities such as burning at strategic locations to reflect cultural practices, as well as reducing the bushfire risk to life, property, cultural assets and values and the environment.
Lower Southern Arrernte man and DEW Witjira National Park Cultural Ranger Dean Ah Chee said developing the strategy was a good example of combining cultural burning and modern fire practices to look after Country.
“Aboriginal people burnt this Country for thousands of years, but that hasn’t been part of the area for decades since it became a station, then a park. The Elders always said that we have to look after this Country to live in it,” said Mr Ah Chee.
“Cultural burning is needed to ensure plants grow, animals survive and Aboriginal people are provided with bush tucker. It keeps Country healthy, which is vital for Aboriginal people.”
The strategy’s poster artwork was designed by Dean Ah Chee using traditional methods and knowledge. It includes a seasonal calendar that represents the deep cultural knowledge the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru people have of the land. It displays how country responds to seasonal changes and when certain activities are undertaken.
It includes the timing of monsoon rains and floods, the breeding of the spangled perch, when dingoes are in their dens with young, when to check water holes, when the native fuchsia or medicine bush is in flower, and when to burn excess reeds that block water holes.
Find out more about fire management plans here https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/managing-natural-resources/fire-management/bushfire-risk-and-recovery/fire-management-plans