Right Country Right Fire
Welcome to RIGHT COUNTRY – RIGHT FIRE, a podcast about how Australia’s Indigenous people use fire to care for country.
For tens of thousands of years, fire has been used as a medicine for the earth – the right fire in the right place at the right time can restore environmental balance.
The early European settlers brought with them a deep fear of fire, and they actively discouraged Indigenous people from their fire practice. But it’s been making a comeback over the past 30 years, driven by the determination and vision of two Cape York elders and the many hundreds of people around Australia those two old men inspired.
In this podcast, you’ll learn how fire is used in what’s now called cultural or traditional burning. And you’ll hear how scientists, farmers and contemporary land managers are beginning to embrace Indigenous fire practice.
Right Country Right Fire is a podcast by Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation, Mulong and The Importance of Campfires, supported by Cape York Natural Resource Management.
It’s written and produced by Richard Dinnen.
Indigenous fire practitioners talk about how fire can be good for country. It’s an idea that confounds European notions of safety and danger, but in the Australian landscape, Indigenous people have always seen fire as a tool, to be used carefully and in the right cultural context. We hear about the start of the revival of traditional fire practice, and meet delegates to the annual National Indigenous Fire Workshop.
We hear from Victor Steffensen, Noel Webster, Dean Freeman, Oliver Costello, Lewis Musgrave, Peta Standley.
The traditional burning movement has many supporters and advocates all over Australia.
Talk to any of them and it won’t be long before you hear them mention “Victor”, The man who learned about fire from those two Cape York old fellas, the bloke who does the fire workshops.
Victor Steffensen is a central figure in the revival of Indigenous fire practice.
Contemporary Indigenous fire practice is based on ancient knowledge and culture. But contemporary science proves its effectiveness. Science and traditional knowledge are very different ways of knowing, and the two approaches are still learning to work together. Meet Dean Freeman, whose work puts him right at the intersection of traditional fire practice and contemporary fire and land management methods. Dean Freeman is a Wiradjuri man – he’s the Aboriginal Cultural Fire Officer with the A.C.T Parks and Conservation Service.
Two Kuku Thaypan elders are at the heart of the story of the national revival of Indigenous fire practice. Dr George and Dr Musgrave had long been determined to take care of their country as their culture required, using the right fire at the right time, as their ancestors had done for tens of thousands of years. They overcame legal and bureaucratic obstacles, and inspired a new generation to learn and understand how fire could be a medicine for the earth.
Indigenous fire practice is based on the deep cultural understanding that the right fire at the right time maintains or restores environmental balance. It’s very old knowledge, increasingly supported by contemporary science. As the revival of cultural burning spreads, scientists and land managers are increasingly interested, even though science and traditional knowledge are very different ways of knowing. It’s crucial scientists and academics learn to work appropriately and respectfully with Indigenous people.
For tens of thousands of years, Australia’s Indigenous people managed environments with fire, using fire sticks to light carefully timed burns in the right places. That traditional practice now gives its name to the organisation helping to revive it – The Firesticks Alliance.