Collaborative research supported by the Firesticks Alliance was published in international scientific journal Human Ecology in December. Co-authors the Banbai Rangers, Lesley Patterson (Banbai Elder), Michelle McKemey (PhD candidate UNE), Oliver Costello (Firesticks), Emilie Ens (Macquarie University), Nick Reid, John Hunter, Mal Ridges and Cara Miller (UNE) produced the paper entitled Cross-cultural monitoring of a cultural keystone species informs revival of Indigenous burning of Country in south-eastern Australia.

The paper describes the reintroduction of Aboriginal cultural burning at Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) by Banbai rangers, who have not had the opportunity to use traditional fire practices until recently. Using cross-cultural science, the Banbai rangers and non-Indigenous scientists monitored the impact of fire on the totemic species, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), known as kukra to the Banbai mob. They found that low intensity, patchy, small cultural burns at Wattleridge IPA had less impact on the echidna than larger, hotter, hazard reduction burns at nearby Warra National Park. Cultural burning did not destroy habitat features that are important to the echidna for shelter and to avoid predation. Furthermore we found that while cultural burning reduced fuel loads, it also achieved a broad range of objectives encompassing conservation, cultural revitalisation, and knowledge and capacity development which also builds social–ecological resilience. Our paper described a cross–cultural research model where the Banbai rangers and scientists worked together to inform adaptive natural and cultural resource management. Our model of cross-cultural monitoring could be deployed in other contexts, if land owners and decision makers are willing to devolve power and allow trans-disciplinary and cross-cultural research to inform more sustainable and inclusive ways of managing Country.

Banbai-Kukra-collaboration-paperLeft to right- Banbai rangers Peter and Cody demonstrating their expertise with the measuring tape; Patchy cultural burning at Wattleridge IPA retained important habitat features for the kukra; Banbai rangers Tremane, Lesley and Peter monitoring signs of kukra at Wattleridge IPA

This research was supported by the Firesticks Alliance, University of New England, Rural Fire Service, Rural Fire Service Association and Northern Tablelands Local Land Services.

Links to access paper:

Full text manuscript available using this link

Human Ecology article (subscription required to access full article)

Project updates / further info: Wattleridge IPA and Michelle McKemmey facebook pages

Photo credits- Michelle McKemey and Jamie Robertson