Aboriginal Cultural Burning in Wingecarribee Bushland Reserves

Acknowledgement Image of 2 men at a Cultural Burn

Wingecarribee Shire Council acknowledges the Gundungurra and Tharawal (Dharawal) people as the Traditional Custodians of the lands where we work and live.

We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters of Australia.

Project Background

Aboriginal people have been using fire on Country for thousands of years. It is important to recognise and respect the deep connection Aboriginal people have to Country and their expertise in land management. Cultural burning provides a spiritual connection to Country, brings community together and reinstates traditional land management practices.

The benefits of Cultural Burning are significant, not only for First Nations people, but also for biodiversity and the general health of the landscape. The type of fire used is generally of a low intensity, and has a positive, long-term impact on the flora and fauna of an area. Cool burns also help to protect forest canopies and the hollows that are so important for an array of native wildlife.

The catalyst for the Aboriginal Cultural Burning in Wingecarribee Bushland Reserves Project followed the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires and the Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry (2020). There were 76 recommendations including Recommendation 26: “That, in order to increase the respectful, collaborative and effective use of Aboriginal land management practices in planning and preparing for bush fire, Government commit to pursuing greater application of Aboriginal land management, including cultural burning….”

The awarding of the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Funding to Wingecarribee Shire Council has enabled the reintroduction of Cultural Burning, led by members of the Aboriginal Community, to our bushland reserves which helps to protect Country from the negative impacts of catastrophic wildfires.

Project Development and Governance

The project was co-designed and developed with Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council (ILALC), Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association Incorporated (GAHAI), other members of the Local Aboriginal Community and Wingecarribee Shire Council (WSC). The project commenced in early 2022 with the Pilot Cultural Burn occurring in August 2023.

Wingecarribee Shire Council set up a steering committee, meeting every six weeks, to guide the implementation of the project. The steering committee included staff and community members from WSC, ILALC, Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association Incorporated (GAHAI) and NSW RFS.

Image of Cultural burning in the Wingecarribee Shire

What has been achieved so far?

A draft Aboriginal Cultural Burning Strategy for Wingecarribee Bushland Reserves and a draft communications plan have been prepared.

These drafts will have further input from the Aboriginal community in the coming months.

Three Cultural burns have been completed within Gibbergunyah Reserve, as shown in the figure below.  These include:

  • Gun09 - 26-27 August 2023 (5ha)
  • Gun06 part - 13 April 2024 (5ha)
  • Gun08 - 14 April 2024 (7ha)

All three cultural burns have been led by Den Barber and his team from Yarrabin Cultural Connections, with participation from Aboriginal community members, ILALC staff, NSW RFS Volunteers and WSC staff. Further Cultural burns are proposed for Gibbergunyah and Mount Alexandra along with a community workshop and tour of the sites during winter and spring. 

Cultural Burn Map Wingecarribee Shire Council

Gibbergunyah Reserve Cultural Burn Film

This Local Economic Recovery Project is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and New South Wales Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

NSW Government logo  Australian Government Logo

Project Partners and Collaborators: 

Gundungurra-Aborigial-Heritage-Association-logo Illawarra-Local-Aborigial-Land-Council-logo

NSW-Fire-Service-logo Yarrabin Fire logo

Two people involved in a cultural burn in the Wingecarribee Shire