A contemporary cultural burn ahead of the bushfire season could be the partnership blueprint that defines land management across the nation into the future.
Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and Forestry Corporation of NSW hosted the cultural burn at the soon to be developed tourism precinct in Cowarra State Forest on Wednesday, September 30.
This burn follows on from Forestry fire training for LALC members in July.
It is the first of many cross-cultural fire training burns, with Coffs Harbour and District LALC teaming up with Bunyah and Biripi LALCs to implement cultural fire practices.
Birpai elder Uncle Bill O'Brien said it is a significant moment in paving a way forward and working together as one community.
The cultural burning techniques deliver a light footprint on the environment, respecting the land and life in it and sets a foundation on the forest floor for bushfire management in more extreme events like the 2019 Black Summer bushfires.
Watch: Uncle Bill O'Brien acknowledges the significance of the partnership
"A cultural burn is a slow burn, not a high fire burn. It's a process of healing the land, bringing back all the nutrition to the soil and bringing back all the animals around us," Mr O'Brien said.
He said the partnership is a "healing process".
"Being Aboriginal we've had this for thousands of years and because of settlement a lot of our knowledge has been lost," he said.
"Now we're all learning together. Even at my age it's all new. But now I can pass this knowledge on to the younger people."
Amos Donovan, CEO of Bunyah LALC said the sharing of cultural knowledge between two neighbouring communities is beneficial.
John Shipp from Forestry Corporations Aboriginal Partnerships Team said he is proud to assist Aboriginal communities and embrace their knowledge in ensuring local forests stay healthy.
"This partnership encourages cultural connection to country and management of traditional lands in the Bunyah LALC region," Mr Shipp said.
"Regular cool burns, used by Aboriginal communities for centuries, help forests develop a more open under-storey and denser canopy."
Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams said this burning was an important part of the tourism precinct showcasing the importance of traditional burning practices in the contemporary management of forests.
"Sustainable forest management is more important than ever as we rebuild fire-affected towns with sustainably-managed timber for bridges, electricity poles and homes. This new precinct is no different and will include local hardwood timber features throughout while being an important hub for Koala rehabilitation through the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital involvement in the precinct," Mrs Williams said.
The development of the facility is supported by a $2.1 million from the NSW government's Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund and a financial contribution from the Forestry Corporation of New South Wales.
A treetop adventure experience, cultural heritage and environmental education component will be an important part of the tourism precinct.
Senior manager for forest stewardship for Forestry Corporation Kathy Lyon said the area will be developed to nurture an understanding of the land and how it can be managed sustainably.
"The first stage in anything you do must be about taking the country back and getting it healthy with traditional Aboriginal practices. It's all about getting people to come to the forest and have fun but learn while they are here," Ms Lyons said.
"We hope they will see some koalas, see traditional Aboriginal practices and learn about cultural heritage and learn about managing the land properly.
"But we also want them to learn about the forestry management story, about using sustainable timber and walk away and change the way they live."
Protection forester, Mick Wilson, said it is important for forestry operations to recognise there is environmental, cultural and social value in the work they do.
"This is the first part of a whole story to restoring health (of the environment) and demonstrate how places were burned traditionally and the contemporary aspects and how forestry have developed skills and practices over a very long time," he said.
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