Traditional Indigenous fire management burns pathway to healthier country

27 Jun 2018


This week has marked an important milestone in the expansion of traditional Indigenous fire management in the Northern Territory as the Tiwi Island rangers, the first group to receive operational funds from the $34 million Savanna Fire Management (SFM) Program, conduct early season burning practices to create healthier country.

The SFM Program funds the development and operation of individual fire management projects on Indigenous held land and aims to provide significant economic, environmental, cultural and social opportunities, including the creation of new enterprises, jobs, and the protection of important cultural and environmental values.

The $34 million SFM Program is managed and delivered by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) on behalf of the INPEX-operated Ichthys LNG Project’s voluntary commitments with the Northern Territory Government to offset carbon emissions from the projects onshore facility.
The ILC’s Deputy CEO, Tricia Button, said the SFM Program highlighted the valuable role Indigenous people play looking after country and the importance of the long term program in the future of the carbon economy.

“Currently around 25% of Traditional Owner groups across northern Australia participate in the carbon economy. Our experience has shown that the significant start-up costs for developing new projects can act as a barrier for the establishment of new carbon enterprises.

“The SFM Program will enable group’s access to start-up funds to assist governance, capacity and business development for new projects. This will assist Indigenous groups to safely incubate their developing enterprise to ensure they are able to enter into sustainable savanna fire management carbon businesses,” said Mrs Button.

Fires in tropical savanna, especially late in the dry season, account for over 4% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Not only do these fires release large quantities of greenhouse gases, they burn large areas of natural bushland and destroy biodiversity and cultural values. Managed fires in the early dry season can be used as a tool to prevent landscape-scale, destructive hot fires that often start each year from lightning strikes.

By 2020 it is estimated that Indigenous carbon projects across northern Australia have the potential to abate over 3.2 million tonnes CO2 per annum, provide between 600-1,100 part-time or casual jobs for rangers and Indigenous land managers, and deliver significant environmental outcomes.

INPEX General Manager External Affairs and Joint Venture, Bill Townsend, said INPEX is committed to establishing meaningful, sustainable relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to addressing climate change.

“The commencement of the Tiwi Islands savanna fire management program is a powerful demonstration of the positive job, cultural, community and environmental outcomes the $34 million program will support,” Mr Townsend said.

“I congratulate the Tiwi Islands Land Council, rangers and the ILC on this milestone.”

Tiwi Land Council Chairman, Gibson Farmer Illortaminni said, "Tiwi people want to develop economic opportunities, and the carbon market presents some exciting possibilities for future management of our land. Partnering with the ILC and INPEX will provide more jobs for Tiwi Rangers to burn for carbon, and also to protect our Tiwi plants and animals."

ILC’s Tricia Button said, “The ILC is very proud to partner with the Tiwi Land Council and their ranger team over the next three years to assist in enabling the establishment of a long-term savanna burning project that will create a revenue stream to fund ongoing land management and generate Indigenous employment on the Tiwi Islands. The project is a successful collaboration between INPEX, ILC and Tiwi Land Council and one we hope will inspire other eligible Indigenous land owners to explore the opportunities available to them from their land assets.”

Ends

For further information, including SFM Program Fact Sheet, high resolution imagery, digital footage and interviews, please contact:

Claire Muntinga | Communications Coordinator
Indigenous Land Corporation
M: 0429 373 348
E: Claire.Muntinga@ilc.gov.au
 

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