Melina Bath MLC, Member for Eastern Victoria Region, has been leading calls for further investigation and trials of traditional indigenous fire management practices in Victoria. Traditional fire burning is already taking place in a number of other states, following demonstrations by leading indigenous practitioner, Victor Steffensen, from north Queensland. In early May, Mr Steffensen spoke to a group of almost 70 people from a range of agencies and authorities at Pauls Range State Forest in the Yarra Valley. In addition to Ms Bath, the presentation was also attended by representatives from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and from the office of Indigenous Affairs minister, Nigel Scullion. The ‘Return of the Firestick Project’ has backing from an increasing number of traditional owners’ groups including Gippsland’s Gunaikurnai people, and broad range support from many other stakeholders including a number of universities. Over 100 people attended a forum to share ideas on traditional fire management at the Mountain Cattlemen’s Association of Victoria 2017 Get Together at Buchan in January. The matter was also discussed at the 101st state conference of The Nationals, held in Traralgon on Saturday 27 May. The conference passed a motion calling for state and territory funding for interagency programs such as the Return of the Firestick Project. “There is a definite mood for change,” Ms Bath said. “At The Nationals’ conference, it was agreed that traditional indigenous fire management practices should be trialled as a method of reducing fuel loads from our heavily choked forests. This will actually increase biodiversity, heal the country, and lead to saving lives and property.” “I’ve seen the amount of dead undergrowth in some of our forest areas. Small plants and grasses have no chance to grow covered by a layer of materials. “Meanwhile, in the event of a fire, this dead undergrowth is partly what leads to such catastrophic outcomes as we’ve seen in recent decades.” “The traditional cool burning, indigenous fire management methodology would see this dead undergrowth removed in a controlled way.” “I hope to see trials taking place in some part of Gippsland within the next 12 months,” Ms Bath concluded.