Cape York NRM’s Operation Manager, Peta-Marie Standley has an eleven year history with traditional fire management practices. She worked with Tommy George and Old Man Musgrave, learned burning methods and about plants and animals on Kuku Thypan country, north-east of Laura.

Peta has been instrumental in developing a methodology for planning and monitoring fires through an Indigenous led research project. She shares this methodology nationally, at fire workshops and in group training sessions.

Peta said the 2014 Indigenous Fire Workshop was brilliant. She is continually amazed at how people from all over Australia come together on Cape York to learn about fire so they can better look after country. She says fire is an important tool in land management and learning how to use it confidently is really important for all Australians.

“Workshops like this provide an opportunity to learn how to use fire properly and safely, and learn what to do when you put in into the bush,” she said.

“Traditional fire regimes will help return the health of the landscape. For example, it’s a way to manage the weeds without using chemicals all of the time. If country is healthy we are all going to be healthy and our children will be healthy.” A highlight of the event for Peta was being able to bring Tommy George to the workshop, from his hospital bed in Cooktown, all the way to Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.

His health improved daily while he was there on country,” she said.

“The respect everyone has shown to the old man and how they thanked him for helping them start their projects has been beautiful. For him to see how his work has helped people all over the country has been a real highlight for me.”

Holding a large event in a remote location such as the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is an extreme logistical and financial challenge, but Peta says it’s all worth it to see the number of people who can now pass on knowledge back in their communities.

“We try and keep track of how many people have been influenced by this work but it’s practically impossible. It’s like a movement of people now - like a fire, it spreads and it is spreading more and more.”

Photo: Peta-Marie Stadley and Kuku Thaypan clan Elder Tommy George