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Australia Week 1: Fire Country

Arnhem Land, Australia

June 10th 2023

Tucked away in a corner of the Northern Territory in Australia, one of the least inhabited areas of the planet, lies Arnhem land. Made up of a patchwork of indigenous-owned lands, I will working in Mimal Indigenous Protected Area for the next few weeks to study bird ecology.

Living somewhere so remote, a 6-hour drive on gravel road to the nearest town (on a good day), there are many things that some adjusting to. The strangest being fire. Here, fire has a completely different reputation. Driving to Mimal, we passed numerous fires along the side of the road with birds of prey whizzing overhead. Wildfires on this land are natural and something is constantly on fire. Plants have many adaptations for living with wildfires, and for thousands of years aboriginal Australians lived in this ecosystem and often burned the land intentionally. It's function may originally have been for hunting, but now rangers are being employed to regularly burn off land during cold seasons. They are totally comfortable around fire, "lighting up" areas of vegetation with drip torches or matches on what seems like a whim, but is actually from a lifetime of experience living around fire. In Australia, this approach is becoming the standard procedure to prevent huge and destructive fires, as fuel is burned off before the hot season comes.


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