A new collaborative project draws on Indigenous traditional knowledge to build community resilience in Northern NSW against the ever-increasing threat of natural disasters.

In the aftermath of the devastating 2022 floods, organisations like Miyay Birray noticed a lot of Indigenous communities were getting left out of the response, with most assistance being directed at major centres like Lismore. Moree, Boggabilla and Collarenebri – areas with high Indigenous populations – can be easily isolated when flood or bushfire hits.

Something needed to be done to help Indigenous communities prepare for disasters in the future, using traditional knowledge systems to address ever-changing modern issues.

“When we looked at fire preparedness, one thing we noticed was that Aboriginal communities used to have fire risk taken care of by Cultural Burns. We wouldn’t have this big build-up of fuel,”

Darrel Smith

When Australia was invaded over 230 years ago, many Traditional Custodians were taken off Country and were unable to practice Cultural Burning openly. This has devastated the environment and communities, leading to heavy fuel loads and increasing the chances of catastrophic bushfires. Western burning practices, though well-intentioned, have often contributed to further damage to the Country with hazard-reduction fires that are too hot, lit at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

To address this issue, Miyay Birray Youth Services has sought the expertise of Indigenous not-for-profit Firesticks and one of their Lead Fire Practitioners to conduct the first community-led Cultural Burn in the communities of Moree, Boggabilla, and Collarenebri on Tuesday 23rd April and Wednesday 24th April, 2024. Cultural Burns will be led by Firesticks in each community across the three days in partnership with the relevant Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC), empowering families, young people and Elders with cultural and practical fire knowledge to support community resilience.

“This is just a starting point,” says Darrel Smith. “Once we get the interest from the community we can do a proper mentoring program. Participating in one Cultural Burn doesn’t make you an expert, but it can light that fire of interest.”

The upcoming Cultural Burns in Moree, Boggabilla and Collarenebri will benefit the entire community by reducing fuel loads and creating safer landscapes more resistant to bushfire threats. The Cultural Burns will also help regenerate the growth of native vegetation, foods and grains that many community members want to harvest.

“This is a great partnership program that gets everyone focused on the Aboriginal community so we won’t get forgotten about.”

Darrel Smith

Cultural Burns 

Moree, Boggabilla and Collarenebri
When: Tuesday 23rd April and Wednesday 24th April, 2024
Who: Firesticks with Miyay Birray Youth Services, Moree LALC, Boggabilla LALC, Collarenebri LALC, the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service and Local Land Services.

This project is funded through the NSW Government Disaster Relief Reduction Fund and delivered in partnership with the Australian Red Cross. 

For more information contact:

Darrel Smith
, CEO of Miyay Birray Youth Services | darrel@mbys.org.au
Ash Steel, Firesticks Communications Manager | asteel@firesticks.org.au