Participants of the QFES hazard reduction training program on Darumbal land in Cawarral.
Participants of the QFES hazard reduction training program on Darumbal land in Cawarral.

‘Just the beginning’: Indigenous residents learn fire skills

DARUMBAL and Gangulu people took part in an intensive Queensland Fire and Emergency Services training program last week, the first step in what could be the beginning of an autonomous organisation of Indigenous ranger-firefighters.

Nine members of the Darumbal People Aboriginal Corporation Registered Native Title Body spent four days studying in Rockhampton before heading to Darumbal land in Cawarral on Friday for the practical component of their Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations), which they afterwards received.

DPAC director Malcolm Mann said that it was essential for Darumbal representatives to learn hazard reduction skills from the QFES for two reasons: first, to help prevent a devastating fire season, and second, to incorporate the learnt techniques into traditional land management practices and pass on that knowledge down the track.

"The intention is that because they're [the participants] are active in a wide variety of environmental projects across Darumbal country, we're hoping that we can employ them full time as our own rangers who have accreditations and proven ability," Mr Mann said.

"Over time we're looking to add boots on the ground, a dedicated force, and a ranger program to facilitate this work going forward.

"Our end goal is to make sure that we've got persons employed. It's a step by step process."

The qualification in question taught how to burn safely and thus remove fuel sources for potential wildfires and encourage the growth of natural grasses and plants.

The firefighting operations practical test on Darumbal land.
The firefighting operations practical test on Darumbal land.

QFES area director Chris Spencer said the training was "the beginning of a journey" for the Darumbal people.

"This is only just the beginning," he said.

"Darumbal owns significant land that has cultural value and meaning. The end state of what they're looking for is to be able to undertake hazard reduction burns autonomously to manage their blocks of land before the fire season.

"What we've basically done is given them the keys to the vehicle to say 'You can successfully undertake a hazard reduction burn,' and they can then build up their skills in the future.

"Having done this successfully, it's opened up future pathways for any Indigenous personnel that want to undertake firefighting activities down the track."

Those who earned the certificate are now volunteering at the Cawarral Rural Fire Brigade.