Indigenous cultural burning expert says care for "our mother" or be left with nothing

By Aroha Mane

An indigenous Australian expert in cultural burning says the bushfires raging across their country are catastrophic and a clear call to protect and nurture the environment, "our mother".

Den Barber from the Koori Country Firesticks Aboriginal Corporation says, “We might be happy to keep our houses and our properties but if we don't have our environment then we have nothing. I think this is where it needs to turn and shift, focusing on the very thing on what we call our mother." 

He says there are serious consequences if this is not done.

"We've undertaken to protect and look after her because if we don't she won't look after us and she's demonstrating that now and we are copping it.”

Millions of animals have been killed in the Australian bushfires and millions more are fleeing all over the country trying to find safety. 

Barber is a former firefighter and an expert in cultural burning. He has described the fires as catastrophic.

“There's lots of roadkill because there are lots of animals coming out of the bush, certainly a lot more onto the roads, rural areas and even coming into the towns.

"It's bad enough that they are coming and looking for water in a time of drought but now they're being forced out of their natural habitat through wildfires. Those that aren't fortunate to get out of the habitat are being overrun by wildfire, and yes there are some graphic images coming out.”

Barber says fire represents light, heat and sustenance for indigenous Australians and it is instances like this that put everything into perspective.

“I believe their hands are tied, it's just too late. I believe this is all reactive management. It is costing an absolute fortune, no doubt billions and billions of dollars.”

Indigenous Australians do not claim to have all the answers to remedy this fire but they have a solution for the future.

“People are disconnected and looking for a connection, fire is one way to do that and I certainly know that with enough backing from the government we could set up some programmes in schools and get them out in the bush, getting them to understand and appreciate the backbone and that becomes part of their being.”

If this knowledge is implemented it is important that it is respected, accepted and led by the indigenous community.