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Australia fires: Aboriginal planners say the bush ‘needs to burn’


By Gary Nunn | 12 January 2020

BBC — For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Australia set fire to the land.

Long before Australia was invaded and colonised by Europeans, fire management techniques – known as “cultural burns” – were being practised.

The cool-burning, knee-high blazes were designed to happen continuously and across the landscape.

The fires burn up fuel like kindling and leaf detritus, meaning a natural bushfire has less to devour.

Since Australia’s fire crisis began last year, calls for better reintegration of this technique have grown louder. But it should have happened sooner, argues one Aboriginal knowledge expert.

“The bush needs to burn,” says Shannon Foster.

She’s a knowledge keeper for the D’harawal people – relaying information passed on by her elders – and an Aboriginal Knowledge lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). […]

3 Comments on Australia fires: Aboriginal planners say the bush ‘needs to burn’

  1. The African Bushmen do the same thing every now and then. We also have ‘controlled burns” in our desert-mountain area which is forested, usually in rainy season in far west Texas (watched over by trained firefighters) in what we call brush piles. So Australia is burning because they’ve destroyed Aboriginee culture? What goes around comes around. They should have left these folks alone–Australia wouldn’t be burning if they had.

  2. Here are some ideas and observations:

    1) The photograph looks as if it has been manipulated to begin with, since the black figures look inserted.

    2) The suggestion seems to be that the controlled burn is where the Tharawal group comes from. I don’t buy it, since the vegetation in Tharawal country is very different from that depicted in the photograph.

    3) From my understanding, controlled burns are still used only in particular areas, are poorly documented in some areas still held and managed by the Australian Aboriginals, and are still mostly misunderstood, since much of the oral history from various parts settled by Europeans has been lost.Cultural burns are still practised in the Northern Territory and parts of WA, where European settlement often came as late as 1930, allowing many of the Tribal groups there to maintain their cultural heritage – including their cultural burning practices.

    4) I hope that Shannon Foster isn’t speaking for most Aboriginals, since there are many different Aboriginals groups and landscapes within Australia. Besides, much of the country in the Tharawal area has been changed by European land management practices. I’ll assume she is talking about the conserved / protected areas, which vary significantly – which by extension still makes me sceptical of her claim. If she does have the knowledge she talks about, she would know that many woodlands and forested areas would need to be managed carefully due to a) the high fuel loads that accumulate in them and b) the diversity of fauna and flora that still exists in some more remote locations.


    This article listed above rightly points out that one size doesn’t fit all, and that some groups of Aboriginals are re-learning how to apply burning techniques for their particular environments, since these groups were deracinated from their lands.

    In summary, there are many unknowns, and much has been lost. I simply don’t believe most of the wider MSM here in Terror Australis. I like some of your articles at, but like so much of the “internet” , it appears that this article – like many others elsewhere on the “web’ – is skimming the surface.

    • These are what we call around the web articles. We have not written these articles nor are the writers affiliated with us. We put up topical articles, some which we endorse and others that are simply of interest.

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