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Video lecture: Did Australian Aboriginals burn the bush as we are told? Joel Wright, "The language of fire."

Note: This introduction has been edited for a number of small but important inaccuracies. editor 29/12/2014.] Fuel reduction and ecological burning etc. are based on the assumption that all Aboriginal people undertook fire-stick farming. Joel Wright, traditional owner in southwest Victoria, is an indigenous language, culture and history researcher. He finds no evidence of wide-scale burning in Aboriginal language and culture, but does find other explanations for the history of aboriginal fires observed by Europeans. These were often smoke-signals exchanged between clans, for general communication and warning of approaching Europeans etc. There was also defensive burning to hinder explorers by burning feed their stock might otherwise eat. Other fires were to 'cover their tracks' when they were being pursued, etc.. Many of these fires were mistaken for landscape burning. Joel also found one record of burning small portions of dry grass around marshes to expose an area to attract birds to scratch for food there, making the birds potential meals for the indigenous hunters. Nowhere did he find anything to justify the destructive and dangerous annual incineration of the landscapes of the Gunditjamara by the Victorian Government. He was concerned that burning the bush as we do now kills the birds and animals so important to vegetation stories, removes scar and burial trees and 'burns micro particles from axes and spears that holds the clues as to what they were used for.The video was recorded from Wright's presentation at Australian Wildlife Protection Council Fire and Wildlife Conference, "Pause and Review Victoria's Fire Management." November 2014 Editor's comment: The long delay in publishing this remarkable report from researcher, Joel Wright, has nothing to do with its excellence. The delay was the result of fire policy politics associated with the recent change of government, which encouraged and others to suppress discussion until the passing of the Napthine Government. I will try to write about these politics in another article.

I am also waiting on a transcript of the contents of the filmed lecture. - Sheila Newman


It's quite revealing that Europeans have captured Aboriginal practices and land management in their own terms, and misconstrued their culture and history conveniently to suit themselves! We are going the inverse route to managing our landscapes, and fires. Who else would know better than Aboriginal Elders on how to manage the land, with 40 million years of experience and keeping the country in pristine condition for so long?
It's assumed that fire must be used to reduce fires! It's a self-fulfilling prophecy if fires actually reduce Nature's fire-proofing mechanisms of fungi, bacteria, native grasses and forests.
The introduction of livestock to Australia's fragile landscape is responsible for a lot of the ecological damage and for introduced plant species for their grazing. If native grasses are less flammable, and fires drive out an kill native species, then we are sterilizing our unique land, and destroying its functions.
Joel Wright's speech was enlightening and revealing, and one can only despair with the Aboriginal people of the capitalistic drive that comes at a great cost to our nation's natural heritage, and the destructive fires that further destroy and eliminate our country's wealth of it's unique ecosystems, and the extinction of flora and fauna.

I appreciated this video being made available online. Joel's lecture looking at the effect of departmental burning of the bush and it's effect on culture, fauna and flora was valuable and edifying. Thank you.

As part of the Andrews Labor Government’s commitment to keeping the state safe, the Inspector-General for Emergency Management (Victoria) has been asked to conduct a review of performance targets for the future bushfire fuel management program on public land.

The review will examine a risk-based approach to bushfire fuel management against the existing hectare-based performance target program. The Inspector-General for Emergency Management has been asked to deliver his report by the end of March 2015.

The review meets the call for action from Neil Comrie, the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Dr Gillian Sparkes and others. It will consider the views of experts, current research and the work undertaken by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) since the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Under the existing policy of Prescribed burns, burning 5% of bushland near human activity is nothing less that catastrophic. A 5% of burning each year, and then burnt again in another 5 years is not enough time for wildlife to successfully recolonize, and for connective habitat to grow back!

Under the present policy of Prescribed Burning, bush far from human activity will be burned simply to tick off quotas of hectares, without any real solution to protecting property and human lives.

According to Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville “The review will not affect the Department’s planned burning program for 2014-2015. It will begin a process to develop an evidence-based approach to reducing the risk of fire and protecting lives, communities and the environment.”

Read more on the AWPC website

More hay needed for fire affected communities as fodder depot established

The North East Catchment Management Authority has established a drop-off site in the Indigo Valley to accept hay donations immediately and through until the Autumn break.

Affected property owners can contact Shaun Jones on 0428 446 607 to register their requirements.... See More