Cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen says his group is investing in healing landscapes.
Modern day agriculture is being re-skilled with age-old Indigenous methods to help care for the nation’s land.
Indigenous land management and how it can be applied to agriculture is one of the focuses of talks in Cairns this week.
The inaugural National Custodians of Country Gathering is a week-long event led by Firesticks Alliance, an Indigenous network that promotes cultural burns.
It’s examining issues such as ecological restoration and community resilience.
“What we’re doing here is investing in giving knowledge to people,” says cultural fire practitioner Victor Steffensen, a co-founder of Firesticks Alliance.
“We’re investing in healing landscapes, making landscapes healthy, bringing down the risks of wildfire and also bringing up the health of landscapes that feed into other opportunities.
“This is about re-skilling the nation in terms of caring for our landscape.”
About 600 people will hear from dozens of speakers tackling subjects such as biodiversity, threatened species management and best practice agriculture.
Managing landscapes with fire will also be a big focus.
“When we look at how we burn country, it all depends on the system and the country and it all depends on its health and it’s all about bringing back the right plants for the soils,” Mr Steffensen says.
“We’re doing more than just fire and water, it’s social enterprise, health, food, all sorts of stuff that is based on enhancing traditional knowledge.”
Mr Steffensen says he’s drawing on knowledge gathered by Indigenous people who managed the Australian landscape for more than 60,000 years.
“You don’t burn everything, annihilate everything on that site, so that comes with frequency,” he says.
A focus of the alliance has been working with landowners across Australia to regenerate cattle country where it’s been overgrazed.
“We’ve been restoring the beautiful country, getting the grasses back without using bulldozers, more using fire, and also teaching how to farm with trees and the importance of farming with trees for soils.”
Chair of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and Djabugay man Barry Hunter says the gathering is about much more than fire management.
“It’s about getting out and sharing some of that knowledge” Mr Hunter says.
“The fact that this knowledge is out there … I always feel that there is an obligation to be able to get out and share it.”