Catastrophic bushfires, indigenous fire knowledge and reframing science in Southeast Australia

Michael-Shawn Fletcher, Anthony Romano, Simon Connor, Michela Mariani, Shira Yoshi Maezumi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The catastrophic 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires were the worst fire season in the recorded history of Southeast Australia. These bushfires were one of several recent global conflagrations across landscapes that are homelands of Indigenous peoples, homelands that were invaded and colonised by European nations over recent centuries. The subsequent suppression and cessation of Indigenous landscape management has had profound social and environmental impacts. The Black Summer bushfires have brought Indigenous cultural burning practices to the forefront as a potential management tool for mitigating climate-driven catastrophic bushfires in Australia. Here, we highlight new research that clearly demonstrates that Indigenous fire management in Southeast Australia produced radically different landscapes and fire regimes than what is presently considered “natural”. We highlight some barriers to the return of Indigenous fire management to Southeast Australian landscapes. We argue that to adequately address the potential for Indigenous fire management to inform policy and practice in managing Southeast Australian forest landscapes, scientific approaches must be decolonized and shift from post-hoc engagement with Indigenous people and perspectives to one of collaboration between Indigenous communities and scientists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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