Letter to the editor


Traditional Fire Man Victor Stefferson recently presented the case for indigenous fire burns to a Tenterfield audience. He'll be back to conduct a practical workshop next year.

Traditional Fire Man Victor Stefferson recently presented the case for indigenous fire burns to a Tenterfield audience. He'll be back to conduct a practical workshop next year.

We can't say we weren't warned about the possibility of large uncontrollable fires we are now experiencing.

Australia is the land of fire, and whilst fire was harnessed by the Aboriginals to prevent large scale out-of-control wildfires, such preventative measures have been largely ignored in modern times.

The intensity of the fires we have recently experienced could have been reduced a hundredfold if we had implemented land management theories developed by aboriginal people thousands of years ago.

As one of Australia's leading rangeland scientists DR Burrows concluded that, "everyone including politicians, bureaucrats, landowners and every citizen had better come to terms very quickly with how Aboriginals managed the country for the last 40,000 years with fire' and noted that Aboriginals burnt the country in three ways; "they burnt frequently, regularly and often", and a research scientist has confirmed that the only time Aboriginals never burnt is when it was raining.

Scientists' warning to take heed from ancient fire practices was again brought to the attention of Canberra in around 2005, to when the Federal Coalition Government "urged' the then State Labour Governments to enact various vegetation laws to meet Australia's Greenhouse Gas Commitments.

The consequent land management legislation enacted ignored those warnings and in effect threw common sense out the door.

While no amount of legislation can prevent fire, good sensible land management can mitigate the damage done by fire to the environment.

Recovery from environmental damage caused by fires takes decades.

It takes epiphytes (orchids ferns lichens etc) between 20 and 30 years to regain their former territory.

Pockets of remnant rainforest can take several lifetimes to recover, if they ever do.

Uncontrolled fire doesn't only impact vegetation but also destroys the animals and birds.

One local land owner has reported that fires in the last 20 years have reduced the Glossy Black Cockatoo population in his area by at least 80 per cent, with similar results for all other animals including large marsupials.

Fires can burn so hot so as to actually set the soil itself alight, burning not only the grass but also the humus and grass roots, leaving the soil open to infestation by weeds such as African love grass, blady grass etc.

In addition to weeds, the fragile soils in our region are exposed and prone to erosion. As a famer living in this area for over 70 years, the worst erosion I have witnessed has been caused by fire, especially to water holes.

That life sustaining water ends up full of sand, and ash ends up in the streams altering the acidity, resulting in the fish kills.

We need to put aside our fears and prejudice of fire, to actively use fire in land management schemes as a preventative measure. When our government proactively starts managing the country as was managed by Aboriginals for 40 plus millennia, we just maybe might just save some our wildlife, our livelihoods, and our homes.

The visual media needs to start reporting hazard reduction and controlled burns in a positive way, rather than the current stance of fear mongering inflamed by negative images of fire; even when that fire is actually beneficial.

The First Fleet colonists were confused and afraid of the way that fire was used by the Aboriginals as a preventative tool, and nothing has changed in 231 years.

Gary Verri

Willsons Downfall

Have your say

All letters to the editor need to include the writer's name and address, plus a phone number if we need to contact you for clarification. Preference is given to emailed letters that are 250 words or less. Letters may be edited for clarity, space or legal reasons.