After Uncle Bryan Powell conducted a smoking ceremony to start the day, and the Aboriginal crew, led by Uncle Rod Mason, lit up their fire. Small fires were lit through-out the grassland, allowing the wind direction to take the flames into the already burnt area so that each small patch of fire extinguished itself and at the end there was a mosaic patchwork and the earth was cool to touch. Healthy looking insects and a mouse were observed amongst the grass soon after the fires died out. The aim was to protect and encourage biodiversity and only around 50 – 70% of the grass was burnt. After 2.5 hours the Indigenous burn – which covered around 1 ha had been completed.
The local CFA’s burn took around 20 mins to complete the same sized area. It was a comparatively fast and hot burn – with lots of smoke, and there was little grass refuge for fauna – as this burn was more focused on fuel reduction and so removing all under storey. In comparison it took a significant time to wet down the burning logs and ensure the fire didn’t reignite.
The day was a fascinating insight into Aboriginal burning practices, and it was great to see local CFA, DELWP and CCMA people present. There’s growing interest in supporting these Aboriginal burning practices on Victorian land and I think it would be a valuable experience for more of us – including local CFA crews to have the opportunity to learn and understand the Aboriginal approach to conducting burns.
Sophie Small, BLG Facilitator