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Cultural burning and celebrating women at fire conference

Concurrently held across three continents, the 6th International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference attracted plenty of discussion and insights from global fire management experts. Each session offered something unique, writes Deb Sparkes.

When attending conferences and engaging in conversations, I often ask people what their favourite learning is from the conference. At the recent Fire Behaviour and Fuels conference in Sydney the resounding response was “the cultural burning”.

The cultural burning discussions began with a music lesson from Uncle Brendan Kerin. The Welcome to Country really helped set the scene for attendees to appreciate how embedded knowledge is in all aspects of Indigenous culture, even the sounds emanating from the yidaki (digeridoo). The Indigenous burning presentations and panel sessions expanded on this theme. Panellists and presenters spoke passionately about healing country and respectful engagement that facilitates and empowers them to burn on country.

Respect also featured heavily in the panel session celebrating women whose lives and careers have thrived around fire. The panel was live streamed between Sydney and Albuquerque and the seven Panellists were not afraid to drill down into the barriers they had faced and overcome. They also offered practical solutions for consideration in moving towards enabling more women to participate in fire management and research.

in addition to the well-considered panel sessions, the presentations also offered great insights to emerging research, ideas and processes, all aimed to increase knowledge and capability across the sector. The abstracts and slides from the presentations will be made available shortly on the International Association of Wildland Fire.

The presentations were supported by a workshop that was designed to give practitioners access to researchers in a more personal setting. Group discussions allowed practitioners to talk through the issues surrounding research utilisation and witness some of the tools that are being developed, which will assist them with their prescribed burn planning and implementation.

The field trip to the Blue Mountains was highly informative. It was particularly fascinating to stand at Echo Point and hear about the eight years that went into planning a burn on Mount Solitary and the challenges to fighting fires in such challenging terrain.

The Centre of Excellence is planning webinars on some of the topics presented at the conference. To stay up-to-date with these events subscribe to our newsletter.