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Firing up Indigenous knowledge puts heat on land care

Liv Casben -

Modern day agriculture is being reskilled with age-old Indigenous methods to help care for the nation's land.

Indigenous land management and how it can be applied to agriculture is one of the focuses of talks in Cairns this week.

The inaugural National Custodians of Country Gathering is a week-long event led by Firesticks Alliance, an Indigenous network that promotes cultural burns.

Attendees are hearing about projects focusing on ecological restoration and community resilience.

One Queensland farming project that's been showcased involves graziers and indigenous people working together to regenerate cattle country by carrying out cultural burns.

"It's actually a grazing management tool that farmers want to use," Karen Vidler from NQ Dry Tropics, who helped co-ordinate the project, says.

"We've been restoring the beautiful country, getting the grasses back without using bulldozers, more using fire, and also teaching how to farm with trees and the importance of farming with trees for soils," says cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen, a co-founder of Firesticks Alliance.

Mr Steffensen says it's about reskilling the nation to care for the country.

"What we're doing here is investing in giving knowledge to people," he says.

"We're investing in healing landscapes, making landscapes healthy, bringing down the risks of wildfire and also bringing up the health of landscapes that feed into other opportunities.

About 600 people are hearing from dozens of speakers tackling subjects such as biodiversity, threatened species management and best practice agriculture.

They're also being taught more about fire management.

"When we look at how we burn country, it all depends on the system and the country and it all depends on its health and it's all about bringing back the right plants for the soils," he says.

Mr Steffensen says he's drawing on knowledge gathered by Indigenous people who managed the Australian landscape for more than 60,000 years.

"You don't burn everything, annihilate everything on that site, so that comes with frequency," he says.

Chair of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and Djabugay man Barry Hunter says the gathering is about much more than fire management.

"It's about getting out and sharing some of that knowledge" Mr Hunter says.

"The fact that this knowledge is out there ... I always feel that there is an obligation to be able to get out and share it."

This AAP article was made possible by support from Landcare Australia and Firesticks Alliance.

Liv Casben - AAP


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