Key words: Indigenous land management, ecological burning, threatened species, Indigenous Protected Area
Jali landholders, from near Wardell in north coast NSW, have been involved with a unique opportunity to get back in touch with country – through the Hotspots Program.
Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council is the largest landowner in the Ballina Shire. Its holdings include a proposed Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) of some 1,0000 ha of native vegetation; an area of high conservation value immediately adjacent to a number of residential areas of the community, including Cabbage Tree Island in the Richmond River.
Burns were previously purposely lit in the area from stolen cars and cigarette butts, threatening the ongoing conservation of the area’s biodiversity, including the threatened Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) .
Events. Workshop. The Hotspots team coordinated 2 workshop events to consolidate known information of the property and to facilitate the community to meet with the local land managers including the Rural Fire Service and National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Fire management strategy. As a result, the Hotspots team helped the community to develop a Geographical Information System (GIS) based fire management strategy for the site. This included spatial maps of the vegetation types, fire history, fire thresholds and fire management zones.
Bush Fire Fighter Training. Working with the RFS, Hotspots helped to facilitate practical on-ground training in fire operations for the community. This training, specifically tailored to the members of the community who had been involved in the Environmental Training and Employment Inc (Envite NSW) program, included an introduction to fire fighting techniques and equipment, bush fire behaviour and prescribed burning.
Prescribed Burn. In August 2010 the NSW Rural Fire Service and Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council conducted a joint 2.5 hectare burn on their lands for the protection of biodiversity and cultural values whilst also assisting to address protection of life and property. The vegetation of the burn site was long unburnt heath with fuel ranging from 10-17 tonnes/hectare. The controlled burn facilitated cooperative planning and implementation and developed the relationship between the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW Rural Fire Service.
Outcomes. Hotspots provided an even ground, where the Indigenous community could benefit from the program, learning through the knowledge of experts in fire management and ecology – and in return, fire managers and ecologists could gain experience from those who have lived on the land for generations.
The Jali on-ground crew have been working closely with the Wetland Care Partnership group and have conducted monitoring on Potoroo sites in the area. Instead of continuing to be subject to random burns started by arsonists, the gates have been put up, and the Jali crew can safely conduct their own mosaic burns, with the intent of providing good regeneration as habitat for the local Potoroos.
Engagement with this program is a way of returning the community back to the land, providing training programs and education to allow the community to develop the skills and knowledge so they can be in the driver’s seat for managing their own land and setting their own direction.
Contact: Lana Andrews (Coordinator Hotspots Programme), NSW Rural Fire Service NSW Rural Fire Service, 15 Carter Street Lidcombe NSW 2141 Australia, Tel: +61 2 8741 5438, Mobile: 0408 109 446, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.hotspotsfireproject.org.au