The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has created the state’s first all-Indigenous crews of firefighters in response to the recent devastating bushfires.
The groups, named Indigenous Mitigation Crews, will be responsible for protecting sacred sites, fighting fires in remote areas and caring for kin and country affected by bushfire. The eight men who will compose the trailblazing crews were handpicked by elders in Bourke and Brewarrina in far western NSW.
For the time being, recruits are focusing on building trust with the community, respect for the bush and an understanding of the environmental and social impacts of arson. The crews regularly visit local schools to discuss the dangers of arson and the importance of staying fit, strong, and ready for the workforce.
The crews are also working to reduce potential bushfire hazards and fuel (such as leaf litter in gutters) in Indigenous settlements in the region. In time and following further training, this work will expand to include performing cultural burns to better manage the area’s fuel load.
Jason Ford, an Indigenous elder from Brewarrina, is a big fan of the program and hopes to see more NSW RFS Indigenous Mitigation Crews established across the state.
"If this type of model was rolled out right across NSW it would contribute greatly to closing the gap," Ford told ABC News.
"Aboriginal people have been excluded from the fire management space for a long time and it's well overdue that we get back in on those discussions."
- To find out more about traditional Indigenous burning techniques for land management, read this article from Landcare Australia.
- To find out how to support NSW RFS, visit their website.
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