Victor Steffensen | Co-founder and Lead Fire Practitioner
Victor is an Indigenous writer, filmmaker, musician and consultant applying traditional knowledge in a contemporary context. He is a descendant of the Tagalaka clan from North Queensland. Much of Victor’s work has been based on the arts and reviving traditional knowledge values, particularly Aboriginal fire management, with Aboriginal communities and non-Indigenous Australians. He is the co-founder of the Firesticks Alliance and the National Indigenous Fire Workshop, which involves a large community network across Australia and internationally. Victor holds an Honorary Doctor of Science and is the author of the ground breaking book, Fire Country.
Victor is pictured on Kabi Kabi Country, credit Jennifer Oliphant.
Craig North | Executive Director
Craig is a proud descendant of the Bidjara people with 17+ years as a senior executive in Indigenous economic development and impact. Craig is currently an Executive Director at the Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation. The Firesticks Alliance provides leadership, advocacy and action to protect and enhance cultural knowledge systems and values of people and Country through Cultural Fire, land and sea management practices. Prior to this role, Craig was the founder of Indigenous Impact Pty Ltd, which was established in 2020 to support the development of Indigenous impact investment opportunities. Indigenous Impact partners with purpose and values-aligned businesses, primarily Indigenous businesses, as well as investors, agencies and innovators to grow new Indigenous economic futures and independence. Craig also holds or has held positions as a non-executive director on the board of Australian Native Food and Botanicals, a member of the Advisory Board for the Australian Circular Economy Hub, Deputy Chair of Queensland South Native Services and as an Executive-In-Residence at The Yunus Centre, Griffith University, in 2021. In 2016, Craig became the first Indigenous Chief Executive Officer of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation’s commercial agribusiness subsidiary. He led a new diversification strategy in this role to increase support for developing Indigenous agribusinesses across new sectors. While at the ILSC, Craig held other senior executive positions where he was responsible for national programs and investments to purchase and return Country to Indigenous organisations across Australia. Craig has a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Environmental Management) at Deakin University, a Graduate Certificate in Business at the University of New England and in November 2022 completed an Impact Finance Innovations Program through a scholarship at the University of Oxford. Craig is also a member of the Australia Institute of Company Directors.
Rachel Steffensen | People and Partnerships Coordinator
Rachel is a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander born and raised in Far North Queensland, Australia where she spent her childhood learning from her father the importance of land management, looking after country and the importance of grassroots-led initiatives. Rachel’s passion is to make positive change within communities through supporting mob by strengthening partnerships and navigating the complexities of cultural protocols in a modern day setting.
Gebro Buli | Executive Officer
Gebro has cultural and historical links to both Wik Mungkan, Thanakwith and Erub Island. With a background in Employment and Training she has a passion for building capacity and capability in people, but especially mob. Gebro’s diverse work background has seen her liaise with a variety of people and so she has mastered the skills of community engagement and strategic planning.
Dr. Peta Standley has worked alongside Indigenous people in the documentation, transfer, monitoring and communication of their cultural fire knowledge. As a fire ecologist, her PhD research focused on transformational research practice in Indigenous knowledge domains, while undertaking in-depth documentation of two Senior Kuku Thaypan Elders traditional cultural fire knowledge. Her work also supported the co-development of the Firesticks National Indigenous Fire Workshops led by Dr. Tommy George and Victor Steffensen. Prior to and during her involvement in this work she engaged with Indigenous communities in Cape York, Wet Tropics, Northern Gulf bio-regions and more broadly across Australia in support of caring for country initiatives. Peta has strong knowledge of protocol and ethics when working with Indigenous Australians and stakeholders. She is a co-founder of the Firesticks Alliance, was an indepedent member of the inception board and is on staff as part of the leadership of the organisation as Training Services and Research Manager. She has over thirty years experience operations management and in business administration having held executive leadership roles in Government and not-for profit organisations.
Peta is pictured on Kuku Thaypan Country, Cape York Peninsula, credit Ben Lister.
Jessica Wegener is a Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan Pillarkilu Mayi, she pays her respects to all that have come into her life and shaped her learning pathways and knowledge. Jessica has a diploma in Indigenous land management, small business and project management and has undertaken an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. Jessica is a former Co-Chairperson of the Firesticks Alliance board and one of the 8 Founding directors of the organisation. She also represents key decision making on a number of boards and committees. Jessica worked in Land Rights for a number of years to progress economic opportunities for Aboriginal communities through balancing their social, cultural, environmental and economic growth capacity to deliver land management opportunities that are supportive of revitalising Traditional Knowledge in healing Country. Jessica started developing the model for mentoring the next generation of Associate Indigenous Fire Practitioners in 2018 with Victor Steffensen and Dr Peta Standley which has resulted in two pilots in the Hunter Region developing formal accredited pathways to acquire skills and knowledge that support the implementation of cultural burning in contemporary land management. In 2019, the Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation developed its strategic plan in collaboration with practitioners from the National Indigenous fire network. This strategic plan identified the need to increase competent and professional cultural fire practitioners. Jess is now working with the Firesticks Alliance team to develop the Firesticks Mentoring framework and learning resources. The program aims to mentor & recognise associate fire practitioners across Australia. The program mentors cultural burning on and off country in different Country types and recognises stages of learning that support cultural practice and the application of cultural fire knowledge on country. The program recognises both formal western qualifications and culturally recognised learning pathways to support contemporary needs and practices.
Jessica is pictured on Djabugay Country, credit Talei Elu.
Michelle is a communications specialist and program manager with a passion for listening, learning and supporting people to share their stories. She’s got a decade of experience working cross-culturally in senior program management roles, assisting rapidly growing organisations in Australia and internationally to establish systems and procedures that streamline operations. Michelle is currently Program Manager at the Firesticks Alliance, where she supports the team to develop and deliver Cultural Fire projects across Australia. In 2015, Michelle co-founded the Youth in Landscapes Initiative – a global movement of 60,000 young people bringing positive change for the sustainability of their landscapes. She has also helped young farmers around the world access mentoring and investment for their ideas, and coordinated a national movement to help people new to Australia build trust, belonging and connection with their neighbours over a shared meal.
Michelle is pictured on Taungurung Country.
Dan Morgan is Djiringanj Yuin Traditional Custodian. Dan has 18 years’ experience working with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, where he gained his qualifications as a Remote area Crew Leader. Dan has sat on the Biamanga Board of Management as Traditional Owner Rep for 7 years, 2 years as the Deputy Chair, during this time Dan gained experience in Part4A Park management. Dan has also spent 3 years working for South East Local Land Services as Aboriginal Community Support Officer, where he was involved in supporting communities with Traditional land management practice and incorporating the recognition of cultural values into government agency management plans, Dan has gained qualification in certificate IV Project Management and certificate III in Conservation Land Management. In 2010/2011 whilst representing the Biamanga Board of Management, Dan had the opportunity to meet Victor Steffensen at a workshop he attended at Cape York, since this day Dan’s perception of fire implementation changed and has been an advocate for cultural fire since.
Dan is pictured on Yuin Country, credit Vanessa Milton.
Leeton is a descendant of Thungutti, Bundjalung and Mualgal peoples. He has a background in youth work/community services and cultural education. He has been working with Various Mentors to Continue and preserve Traditional Knowledge from tool making with Stone, Timber and other Natural Materials, foods and Medicine knowledge and the reintroduction of the right fire on Country by practical application. Leeton is also a Volunteer Firefighter with the Rural Fire Service and has made a commitment to Make Cultural Land Management and Indigenous Fire Management his life’s work into the future. “My main Passion aside from preserving and Practicing the old ways of doing is to see the restoration of Landscape Identity through the many adaptive practices to maintain diversity and Cultural Values through an Indigenous lens.”
Leeton is pictured on Kabi Kabi Country, credit Jennifer Oliphant.
Siobhan Singleton | Wet Tropics Regional Coordinator
Siobhan Singleton is an Yirrganydji Woman of the Far North Queensland Wet Tropics coast, Cairns to Port Douglas. Also, grew up in the Aboriginal Community of Yarrabah on Gunggandji Country and Cairns while learning Cultural protocols and values at the earliest years of her life. Coming from a higher learning background of film and land and conservation management which progressed into becoming a Ranger for state government departments of Victoria and Queensland. Then went on to become a Ranger with Yirrganydji Land and Sea Rangers and progress into Cultural Fire Project Officer for her people.
She learnt how to adapt her writing skills into project writing and documenting her Elders/knowledge keepers and their living knowledge systems of land and sea country types and cultural values. Siobhan is still an active documenting storyteller and no ongoing student of Cultural Fire Practice for the Wet Tropics Region.
Siobhan is pictured at Wooribinda Community, credit Victor Steffensen.
Germaine Paulson | South East Queensland Regional Coordinator
I’m a Mununjali/Wulli Wulli man who carries songline and story responsibility for our Mununjali mob, which led me into engaging with Caring for Country responsibilities as a part of my cultural responsibilities. With the more understanding my cultural responsibilities to Country, I realised I needed to build my cultural understanding of Caring for Country. This led me to loosely engaging with Firesticks through Leeton Lee to help start building a land management plan for our community property using the methodologies of our old people to re-establish identity to Country on our community property. Before undertaking a journey in building my capability in Caring for Country, I was employed by the South East Regional Department of Education office to assist teachers connecting cultural perspectives to the curriculum and also assisting in re-engaging young people who were either at risk of/or fully disengaged in education and before that, I worked for Mununjali Housing as a community support worker assisting our mob who had their own personal struggles. Through my work in the community service space and helping people, then connecting with Leeton around Traditional Land Care practises, I came to recognise the connection between the health of a people in community/and as a community and the health of Country. This connection led me to peruse employment with Firesticks where I am honoured and privileged to be able to bring my previous experiences together of separately attempting to heal people and communities with attempting to educate the wider communities understandings of culture within the one space. I see everyday as a privilege to walk Country with community and learn together on how we can strengthen our connections to Country while fulfilling our cultural responsibilities as Custodians of Country using the methodologies passed down from Dr George Musgrave, Dr Tommy George and carried on through Uncle Victor Steffensen and Dr Peta Stanley and the whole Firesticks team of employees and community networks.
Rayne Simpson | Kaurna Regional Coordinator
I am a proud Kaurna, Narungga man living on Peramangk Country in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Working on country, learning from our Elders and those that hold knowledge of our ancient practices, has led me on a path in life that has brought me closer to my own culture. My background is in the Banking Industry and after 15 years I decided to start a much more meaningful journey to revitalise traditional land management practices within my community. Drawing off the teachings of our Elders and collaborating with fellow Kaurna men and women, I have integrated traditional fire management techniques into my approach to work and life. My goals are not only to improve the health of our lands and waterways, but to create opportunities for our young people to play a crucial role in their own cultural journey and economic empowerment. Working with Firesticks Alliance has reassured me that the work we have completed to date has been in the footsteps of our ancestors. The support they provide empowers us to continue promoting and practicing the crucial role of Traditional Owners managing their own lands.
Rayne is pictured on Kaurna Country.
Quahli Newchurch | Kaurna Community Coordinator
My background is in environmental management, cultural education and volunteer support services. I currently sit on Warpulai Kumangka, a Kaurna environmental advisory committee to the Green Adelaide Landscape Board, and provide cultural and environmental advice and perspective into various environmental projects within the Kaurna footprint. Over the past few years I have attended community workshops with Victor held on Kaurna and Narungga Country learning about cultural fire, which has unlocked a deeper understanding of Country for me, and how we can truly begin to heal together. I am really excited to continue this learning journey and to grow within this space, along with my community. I look forward to bringing our Old Peoples ways and knowledges of caring for Country back into our landscape, to heal and restore Country for a healthier future for us, our children and our children’s children.
Quahli is pictured on Kaurna Country.
Clem Newchurch | Kaurna Fire Practitioner
I worked for many years as an Aboriginal Community Education Officer in South Australian schools, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families. After working in schools I moved into a Community Development role in local government, developing youth programs such as skate competitions and art sessions. More recently I have operated as a sole trader, providing cultural education and consultancy in a variety of settings, including environmental advisory groups (such as Green Adelaide’s Warpulai Kumungka and the Kaurna Parks Advisory Committee). Alongside this, I dabble in Arts. I learned how to weave from Ngarrindjeri Elders and after being asked by a few Elders to look into it, I taught myself how to make string and nets from native plants local to our region. I carve, making boomerangs, shields, spears and a range of other items and I’ve also written and directed a couple of short documentaries/films.
Clem is pictured on Kaurna Country.
Paul Dixon | Kaurna Associate Fire Practitioner
I have an interest in Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri plants and their uses, and have wanted to work with the environment since I was a child. I’m really keen to learn new skills and more about my culture while caring for country.
Paul is pictured on Kaurna Country.
Peter Townsend | Mentor Coordinator Central Tablelands and Greater Sydney
Peter Townsend is a Traditional custodian of the Wiradjuri, Wayilwan and Gamilaraay Nations of Western and North Western NSW. He grew up in his fathers traditional homelands on Wayilwan country, where he found his passion for his culture whilst just a youngster. Pete has a background in the Environment, Culture and Heritage and Land Management fields, where he has spent the last 20 years or so of his life working in Local Aboriginal Land Councils as a Culture and Heritage and Sites officer. Pete has successfully completed his Conservation and Land Management training from Cert 1 – Diploma level. He also has a Certificate 4 in Frontline Management. Pete is also a current member of the NSW Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Advisory Committee (ACHAC). In 2016, Pete was fortunate enough to meet Victor Steffensen, which was a life changing moment for him, as he has taken on the knowledge and holds it close to his heart. In the future, he plans to give back to community by implementing a Mentorship program on his own traditional lands.
Clare Reeves | Program Coordinator – Central Tablelands, Greater Sydney, Hunter, and North Coast NSW
Clare Reeves is a first-generation Australian, raised in Ireland, as part of the O’Brien clan and immersed in Celtic heritage and tradition. Her passion for conservation and respect for the natural environment stems from this strong cultural foundation. Clare has worked with environmental non-for-profits and volunteer organisations with a particular focus on training facilitation and program development. In 2020, Clare achieved the prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarship and Fellowship Award while studying a Bachelor of Parks, Recreation and Heritage. She was fortunate to be able to work with Wiradjuri elders and mob during her study; they continue to be a constant inspiration and influence on her work in land and resource management. Clare came to Firesticks Alliance from a role in the Fire Management Unit of the ACT Parks and Conservation Service after reading ‘Fire Country’. Clare is engaged in her rural community as a volunteer firefighter and wildlife rescuer and is looking forward to contributing to the Firesticks team and building capacity in communities.
Clare is pictured on Wiradjuri Country.
Koorin Campbell | Southern Yuin Mentoring Coordinator
Koorin Campbell is a Djiringanj/Walbunja – Yuin, Thunghutti Traditional Owner. Koorin has experience doing volunteer work for National Parks and Wildlife Service in Narooma on Koala and Potoroo surveying projects. Koorin worked for 4 years with Catchment Management Authority / South East Local Land Services as a Field Officer on a Koori Work Crew where he completed his Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management. Koorin has worked 6 years in the construction industry, where he worked on a number of projects, ranging from Southern NSW to works in Far North Queensland. He has also completed a Certificate III in Civil Construction and is competent on various machinery. The Black Summer fires sparked Koorin’s interest in learning traditional methods of using fire, because of the devastating effect it had on the landscape and native flora and fauna.
Amber Webb | Program Officer
Amber is living on Djiringanj Country, which is a part of the broader Yuin nation. Amber’s working background is in threatened species management and environmental restoration for non-profit organisations. Amber has built her project management skills through previous roles with Australian Ecosystems Foundation Inc and Bush Heritage. With Bush Heritage, Amber’s role was targeted at the restoration of Snow Gum and Yellow Box woodlands, on Ngarigo and Ngunnawal Country. Amber is currently completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Ecology and Conservation) with Charles Sturt University, and has completed a Certificate III in Conservation and Land Management. As part of her University degree, she has worked in arid zone landscapes such as the Strzelecki Desert and Mallee Cliffs National Park. Amber is driven to continue working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in returning cultural fire to the landscape and shifting contemporary fire regimes.
Amber is pictured on Darug Country.
Anese was born on the Atherton Tablelands on Wadjanbarra Yidinji country and spent her formative years growing up on Dharug and Eora nations country (Sydney), Naam (Melbourne), and in New South Wales regional centres before settling in Meeanjin (Brisbane). The diverse experiences that stemmed therefrom have resulted in maintaining connections across the Australia’s Eastern seaboard. Anese is undertaking her dual Bachelor’s in Psychology and Business. Anese strongly believes that development and education in this field will support her to more effectively pursue and action her passion for driving positive impact in people’s lives, pursuing social justice, and improving industry processes. Anese shows initiative in her learning; and her compassion for people in solving complex problems which began with her volunteering at a local health clinic in her home town. Anese as a young woman went out on home visits with the clinic nurse and listened to stories from Elders from diverse cultural backgrounds to support them in their health care. As a result, Anese has developed an interest in human behaviour, education, and neuroscience inspiring her study in psychology with which she seeks to understand the fundamental basis of the decision-making processes that underpin her aforementioned passions. Since being at Firesticks Alliance, Anese has fulfilled duties in general admin, finance, project administration, and management. She has on-boarded and trained staff in various roles relating to these areas of the business. Anese currently provides support to enable regional teams across Australia to achieve their goals in program delivery.
Ash Steel | Communications Coordinator
Ash is a passionate, inclusive and creative individual whose strengths lie in the design and delivery of communications solutions that empower communities and prioritise social and cultural justice. Throughout her dynamic career, Ash has combined skills in arts, media, communication and design with community development, advocacy and human rights. After graduating with First Class Honours in a Bachelor of Visual Communication, Ash began her career as a graphic designer and visual communicator. But a strong commitment to social justice, community empowerment and First Nations culture drew Ash to Central Australia and expanded the scope of her work. Here on Arrernte Country, Ash began working with First Nations community organisations in Communications and Community Development roles, including 6+ years with First Nations not-for-profit Children’s Ground. Ash recently completed a Masters of Human Rights to deepen her knowledge of the systems and structures underpinning injustice and inequality. This complements her practical experience working directly with communities experiencing such injustice and strengthens her potential in the Communications space.
Ash is pictured on Worimi Country.
Kimberley Taylor-McInnes | Education Coordinator
Kimberley has a degree in Anthropology and Criminology from James Cook University and has worked for QLD Government for the past 5 years in the Youth Justice and Child Protection Space. Prior to this managed and helped establish a number of programs in Alice Springs to engage Aboriginal youth back into education through the Youth Outreach Service & Girls Academy. Kimberley’s family is from Mparntwe (Alice Springs) with connections to Wiradjuri and Gandangara Country in NSW. Kimberley is passionate about connecting the next generation of children and youth back to their culture and supporting communities to revitalise traditional knowledge.
Gail Garrett | Finance and Administration Officer
I was born on Mandandanji country in the small town of St George until at a young age, my family relocated to live in Meeanjin to transition to a life in a big city. My career spans more than 40 years in Aboriginal affairs working with community, government bodies and agencies taking on roles in administration, finance, employment and training, each time strengthening my passion to help mob in these areas. I am thankful to have an opportunity with Firesticks and look forward to this new chapter of my journey.
Gail is pictured on Mandandanji Country.