DFES taps into tradition

Countryman
The new full-time position with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services is believed to be an Australian first.
Camera IconThe new full-time position with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services is believed to be an Australian first. Credit: flukesamed

The traditional fire management practices of Aboriginal Australians will become part of WA’s efforts to reduce bushfire risks following the creation of a traditional fire programs co-ordinator role.

The new full-time position with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services is also believed to be an Australian first and will help incorporate traditional bushfire management practices with contemporary methods across WA.

Wayne Davis, a Kaitij man from the Northern Territory with 40 years of experience as a traditional fire practitioner, is heading up the program.

Mr Davis, who is now based at the Bushfire Centre of Excellence, has worked with Federal and State Governments and Aboriginal corporations in the Northern Territory, Queensland, northern WA, and South Australia, including in Arnhem Land and the APY Lands.

He will spend the first year engaging with traditional owners, other land managers, and communities to better understand their cultural connection with fire and its uses for mitigation and firefighting.

He will then help bring together WA’s various traditional fire techniques and learnings with contemporary fire management to create new or adapted methods.

Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan said Aboriginal knowledge of the timing and intensity of preventative burns should be harnessed.

“Australia’s First Peoples have tens of thousands of years of knowledge about the use of fire to reduce bushfire risks and to manage the land,” he said.

“So the creation of a traditional fire programs co-ordinator within a State Government agency is a very welcome step in adapting bushfire management and mitigation in WA to recognise that long history.”

“The Department of Fire and Emergency Services already works closely with Aboriginal people through a range of Aboriginal advancement initiatives and this new role is a progression of that existing relationship.

“Traditional owners have also worked with the department across the State to identify and protect culturally significant sites during bushfires.

“I would like to congratulate Mr Davis on taking up this inaugural position and I look forward to seeing the complementary integration of traditional fire practices with contemporary fire management to help make WA more resilient to bushfires.”

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