Indigenous fire management in the Kimberley
The Kimberley Land Council’s Indigenous fire management program is extremely important to the biodiversity of the environmentally significant Kimberley region.
Highly skilled Indigenous rangers use traditional knowledge and techniques, together with modern science and technology, to fight fire with fire and reduce the likelihood of large uncontrolled wildfires.
Aboriginal people in the Kimberley have been undertaking traditional fire management for thousands of years. However, with the onset of colonisation and the removal of Aboriginal people from traditional lands, traditional burning was largely stopped during the twentieth century. This led to the emergence of large, uncontrolled wildfires, usually occurring late in the dry season and destroying important ecosystems and habitats. Often these late dry season wildfires impact grazing pasture, infrastructure and other assets.
In the last 25 years, with the introduction of native title and the recognition that western fire prevention methods have not been working effectively, we are now seeing a reinvigoration of traditional fire management in the Kimberley and all across northern Australia.
How does Indigenous fire management work?
Indigenous fire management involves the lighting of ‘cool’ fires in targeted areas during the early dry season between March and July.
The fires burn slowly, reducing fuel loads and creating fire breaks. Not all the area is burnt, with the end result a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country. This creates a similar landscape to when Kimberley Aboriginal People walked the country and burnt as they went for hunting, ceremony and other cultural purposes.
The method removes fuel for larger fires late in the dry season when the weather is very hot, at the same time as maintaining and protecting habitat for mammals, reptiles, insects and birds.
There are other organisations and government departments such as Department of Parks and Wildlife, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Pastoralists that manage fire in the Kimberley by carrying out early dry season prescribed burning.
If you see a fire while travelling through the Kimberley and you have concerns, please phone triple zero (000) or visit www.emergency.wa.gov.au for all of the latest fire advice.
Indigenous Fire Management in the Kimberley Brochure - Click to download PDF