Delungra gathering highlights importance of cultural fire burning

With bushfire devastation still fresh in the minds of Inverell's region, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services (LLS) hosted a small gathering to highlight the importance and benefits of cultural fire burning.

Held in Delungra last week, the event was a collaboration between LLS, Rural Fire Service (RFS), local Aboriginal Elders and fire practitioner Victor Steffensen.

Northern Tablelands LLS Aboriginal Communities Officer Ivan Lackay said known world-wide, Victor has a passion to share his knowledge around cultural burning.

"When to burn, when not to burn and why we should burn using Aboriginal tradition, knowledge and expertise to do it. Victor was really good at explaining the rich history and methods that have worked for thousands of years," he said.

Victor is a descendant of the Tagalaka people through his mother's connections from the Gulf Country of north Queensland. For the past 27 years, he has worked hard to revive traditional knowledge values of Australia's first people, particularly traditional burning.

Victor has taken on mentoring and leadership, as well as on-ground training with Aboriginal communities and many non-Indigenous Australians.

"We also had Jamie Bertram attend from the Hotspots Program attached to the RFS as well as Inverell locals, Elders and the Banbai mob. This is the first time we've held a knowledge-sharing event like this and it was incredible," Ivan said.

Due to COVID-19, the gathering wasn't advertise to ensure acceptable group numbers lined with NSW rules and regulations. However, Ivan hopes to host another event next year in the cooler months as climatic conditions allow.

"It was just such a great day, we had non-Aboriginal people attend too and I think they went home with a better understanding. Cultural burning stimulates biodiversity. It reduces fuel, creates a better environment for native animals, it encourages native grasses to grow and reduces non-native grasses.

"As an Aboriginal man, it gave me chills to be part of the gathering. It was reconciliation happening without getting technical. Everyone was on the same page for the same reason. We were brought together for a common cause and that's just an unbelievable way to close the gap," he said. Victor has recently published a book called Fire Country.