Indigenous Land Management has maintained Australia for tens of thousands of years. This knowledge is essential to addressing the climate crisis on our reserve and across Australia, and is valuable for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working with plants, animals and the ecosystems.
We partner with the Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC). BGLC represents Traditional Owners from the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples, who were recognised in a 2005 Native Title Consent Determination, the first in south-eastern Australia.
Traditional Knowledge is embedded in Reimagining the Future, our Conservation Reserve 10-year strategy. Our focus is on:
- Implementing and celebrating Indigenous Land Management
- Traditional fire risk management practices
- Actively protecting cultural heritage as part of conservation
- Indigenous expertise in biodiversity planning
Our reserve is also embedded in our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Our RAP commits us to partner with BGLC on land management and community access, integrate Indigneous Land Management practices into the reserve and conduct cultural heritage surveys.
In July 2019, we began our first 18-month traineeship on the reserve. The traineeship employs a young Indigenous person in conservation plus further integrate Indigenous Land Management into the reserve.
Our trainee is employed by our partner Greening Australia, and they work across all elements of the reserve while completing a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management.
So far, our current trainee has worked on naming all of our fire access tracks with names from the Wergaia language group, educating our staff about the significance of Aboriginal cultural sites and ceremonies, and designing reserve flora and fauna for a feature wall at a Melbourne site.
Cultural heritage survey
In 2017, we worked with the BLGC to identify and register sites of cultural significance across our 927 hectare reserve. BGLC has the legislative authority to make legal decisions about cultural heritage. We’re proud to be the first business to voluntarily engage BGLC for a cultural heritage survey.
The sites identified included a number of scar trees, a canoe tree and a significant women’s area.
We can now take steps to protect these sites. Some steps may include banning cars from significant areas and prioritising restoration to improve the health of significant trees.
A cool burn
We’re working with BGLC and the CFA to support Traditional Owners to use cultural burning practices on the reserve, an activity performed by Indigenous peoples across Australia before colonisation. A Traditional Burn is a cool, low intensity burn that’s closely managed. One purpose is to gently remove fire risk to decrease the likelihood and severity of bushfires. Traditionally, cool burns also aided hunting.
It’s also an important cultural practice for Traditional Owners and Elders, as well as a way to rebuild this knowledge which was prevented from being passed down by Colonisation.
“We hadn’t had that transfer of knowledge about fire, so we had to build it up” Damien Skurrie, Parks Vic
What’s involved in a Traditional Burn?
This involves a lot of planning to ensure the crew and the area are prepared correctly. The weather conditions are also essential - wind and temperature, both on the day and the days after the burn, must be right to keep the fire under control.
In late 2019, the CFA and BGLC worked with Parks Vic to prepare for the first cultural burn at the reserve in a long time, likely since colonisation. The conditions weren’t right on the day to do the full Traditional Burn, so instead we did a small test burn and are planning to try again in August 2020.
Looking forward, we’re planning for about half of our planned burns for fire risk management to use traditional methods, unlocking cultural and ecological benefits side by side.
Damien Skurrie, Parks Vic, doing a test cool burn at the reserve in late 2019.