• Audience
    Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 4, Stage 5, Stage 6
  • Learning area
    First Nations, Geography
  • Type
    Teaching resources

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Cultural burning is a cultural fire practice used by First Nations people to improve the health of Country and its people. It has been used for over 60,000 years to manage land, plants and animals. The dispossession of land and loss of identify has meant that cultural burning has not occurred over large parts of Australia for many generations, but there is increasing awareness of the important role it can play in the mitigating the effects of extreme bush fires caused by climate change.

Cultural burns:

  • Are small-scale burns that consider the types of plants and animals living in the area.
  • Do not burn the canopy. The canopy is sacred and provides shade and shelter for animals and provides seeds for future generations.
  • Are relatively cool and create a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country that reduce the intensity of bush fires during dry periods.

Watch the video below and answer the following questions.

  1. Where does Victor Steffensen think the fear of fire comes from?
  2. How is a cultural burn different from a European hazard reduction burn?
  3. What are the benefits of a cultural burn for the plants, animals and landscape?
  4. What differences do you see in the vegetation after a cultural versus hazard reduction burn?
  5. What western scientific method is used to compare the land before and after a burn? What does it measure?
  6. Do you think it is important to revive this practice? Why?

Watch this video about a cultural burning program started in 2017 by the Bega Local Aboriginal Land Council at Tathra West. Students will learn about the differences between cultural burning and hazard reduction burning, and how the knowledge and practice of cultural burning will help us to manage bushfire risk that is increasing because of climate change.

You can use the guiding questions above to assist you.

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