Each month, we will be focusing on a successful project that has been funded by the State NRM office. This month, we look at an effective fire management program on the Miriuwung Gajerrong-owned lands in the East Kimberley.
For the last two and a half years, the Yawoorroong Miriuwung Gajerrong Yirrgeb Noong Dawang Aboriginal Corporation (MG Corp), with support from the State NRM has been developing and implementing a successful fire management program on the Miriuwung Gajerrong rangelands.
Culturally significant sites and the region’s biodiversity were being threatened on the vast Miriuwung Gajerrong rangelands due to uncontrolled burning and wildfires in the late dry season. Pockets of rare and sensitive monsoonal vine thickets habitat for a number of wildlife were at threat. It was also believed that uncontrolled fires were having a significant effect on the quality of water in springs and waterways that held high cultural and environmental significance
Having identified the need to develop a coordinated burning program across the East Kimberley, traditional Indigenous mosaic burning practices were re-introduced to work in conjunction with western scientific approaches.
Chairperson of MG Corporation Ms Edna O’Malley said the involvement of local Aboriginal people was central to the success of the project which protected 15 out of 23 community living areas as well as community housing in Kununurra.
“It is very important that local Aboriginal people take a lead role in preserving their traditional lands and the work undertaken by the MG Land and Water ranger team has been widely recognised within their community.
“Their controlled burning played a key role in preventing property losses at several MG Community Living Areas and residents were extremely proud that their homes had been protected through the hard work of local Aboriginal people.
“The MG Land and Water ranger team provides an ideal environment for local Aboriginal people to build their skills base in the area of natural resource management, while working on their traditional lands.”
Since European settlement, Indigenous burning practices have declined, leaving savannah grasses to grow and become perfect fuel for uncontrollable fires late in the dry season. The traditional Indigenous practice involves burning the native grasses early in the dry season using small fires lit in a mosaic pattern.
The first phase of the project involved undertaking an extensive consultation process with Miriuwung Gajerrong traditional owners, pastoralists and other stakeholders to develop fire management plans for different regions and communities within the extensive Miriuwung Gajerrong area.
Vulnerable community living areas on the Miriuwung Gajerrong lands were prioritised in the plans depending on fire history, vulnerability, maximum threat and vulnerability.
Fire management training was provided to Miriuwung Gajerrong rangers in the second phase of the project. Alongside traditional owners, the Miriuwung Gajerrong rangers then undertook the prescribed burning. Lessons from the first burn were used to revise the fire management plans.
The training program has resulted in additional successes, a positive attitude amongst rangers, with project staff obtaining higher levels of employment and members of the younger Miriuwung Gajerrong community enquiring about work on a regular basis.
The fire management program spanned over 178,332 hectares of Miriuwung Gajerrong land, from tropical savannah open woodlands at the border of the Northern Territory to the wetlands at the west of Lake Kununurra.
Image courtesy of ©MG Corp.