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All-Indigenous firefighting crews to aid in bushfire recovery and prevention

Date: 13-Jan-20
Author: Liam Taylor

New South Wales has been hit harder by bushfires than anywhere else in Australia, with the Rural Fire Service going above and beyond to fight the flames.

New South Wales has been hit harder by bushfires than anywhere else in Australia, with the Rural Fire Service going above and beyond to fight the flames.

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."

 

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Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.



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