Crown Lands

Aboriginal working group for cultural fire management

Media Release | 1 November 2022

The NSW Government will support an Aboriginal-led working group to develop an Aboriginal cultural fire management strategy.

Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson said the Cultural Fire Management Aboriginal Working Group will prepare the statewide strategy, to assist with environmental health and bush fire mitigation.

“Aboriginal land management programs that incorporate cultural burning have the potential to provide social, environmental and cultural benefits, and lead to longer-term bush fire fuel reduction to nurture communities and ecosystems,” Mr Anderson said.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said it’s important for existing hazard reduction practices to learn from cultural burning principles.

“To contribute to this objective, the NSW Rural Fire Service has recently employed 46 dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mitigation crew members,” Ms Cooke said.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Franklin said that cultural burning is an important practice to Aboriginal communities and wider communities across the State. Aboriginal people are the oldest surviving culture in the world with customs and traditions that will benefit the whole state.

“For Aboriginal people, cultural burning is about caring for Country, maintaining healthy, ecologically diverse and productive landscapes, and practicing their cultural traditions,” Mr Franklin said.

Aboriginal cultural fire management strategy.
The NSW Government will support an Aboriginal-led working group to develop an Aboriginal cultural fire management strategy.

Department of Planning and Environment Executive Director of Aboriginal Outcomes, Mark DeWeerd said the Cultural Fire Management Aboriginal Working Group consists of six members from across the state.

“The Cultural Fire Management Aboriginal Working Group is in the early stages of developing the NSW strategy for cultural burning in partnership with Aboriginal communities, as recommended by the Bushfire Inquiry into the 2019-20 bush fires,” Mr DeWeerd said.

“Cultural burns have been used by Aboriginal people for over 60,000 years to care for Country and maintain Aboriginal societies. More recently awareness has been growing on their use to manage and improve the health of land, and how they can reduce the intensity and damage of bushfires when they occur.”

Members of the NSW Government-supported Cultural Fire Aboriginal Working Group include Euahlayi man Bhiamie Williamson; Yuin Walbunja Wiradjuri woman Vikki Parsley; Wiradjuri man Den Barber; Gumbaynggirr saltwater woman Chels Marshall; Wangaaypuwan and Wiradjuri woman Sharon Hodgetts; and Ngiyampaa man Mark Brettschneider. The group will:

  • Work collaboratively to coordinate a whole of government approach to cultural fire management.
  • Preserve the cultural integrity of Aboriginal cultural fire management in NSW.
  • Support development of an independent Aboriginal body to ensure cultural fire management knowledge and practices are led by Aboriginal people and communities.
  • Provide strategic advice on cultural fire management governance and evaluate its effectiveness.

Department of Planning and Environment Cultural Fire Management Unit Manager Vanessa Cavanagh said cultural burning has the potential to provide many benefits.

“Cultural burning is one component of traditional land management and not just about fuel reduction, but also about caring for Country, maintaining healthy, ecologically diverse and productive landscapes, and practicing cultural traditions,” Ms Cavanagh said.