The introduction of improved pasture species into our regions has …

Comment on Fire in the desert: a formidable threat and a tool by Steve Brown.

The introduction of improved pasture species into our regions has been a great blessing for pastoralists, improving our soil’s fertility and producing vast amounts more fodder from every rainfall event. Naturally the greater productivity also brings with it greater fire risk. Risk that must be managed. The very small available population to take on that greater management role must raise questions about overall land use and structure in Central Australia. Government should be giving serious consideration to allowing pastoralists whose properties can demonstrate marked pasture improvement by species such as buffel to subdivide into smaller more manageable lots, this way also lifting the population of available personnel to deal with major fire events and other land management issues.
There is however one fundamental issue that must be addressed by our various land management agencies in order to make way for a more sustainable management of our landscape. That is to change the fundamental misconception rife within land management agencies that country needs to burn, “that it is OK to burn”!
It is not OK! It does not need to burn,ever! The attitude derives from a paternal belief about Aboriginal fire stick farming, that in some way it is good for the country. This is a totally false premise. Burning, especially repetitive burning does enormous damage to our soils, our landscape and our wildlife. Despite popular belief country struggles to come back from major fire events and can quite literally take decades to return to its former productivity. That is why it must become the watchword, the all pervading philosophy of all involved agencies to stop, to prevent fires at all costs!
Can you imagine taking your car and pranging it into a wall in an effort to prevent the greater damage caused by a head-on prang or pushing the front row of glasses off the shelf before they could fall by themselves? Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Yet we take that same idiotic approach to fire risk management. We know there is a good possibility of fire in the season ahead so we start the fire before they can start themselves, supposedly cold, fuel [not feed] reducing fires.
Looking back at past seasons, what has been the result of this practice? We’ve burnt the grass in case it burnt, supposedly a cold burn that did less damage but was that really the case? What have we actually saved? The grass is gone, any unsound tree goes, fire hot or cold, we’ve ended up with no pasture, less trees, much less wildlife and returned our pastoralists to drought conditions unless there is a rainfall event, so what exactly did we save???
These burn offs and allowing the fires to run, which is common practice, these deliberately lit, so called cold fires have been the birthplace of nearly every large destructive fire in recent times, especially those originating in national parks. Because of the ingrained attitude of, “it’s better to let it burn now, in case it burns latter”, vast swathes of the countryside have been allowed to burn.
Nowhere is this practice more evident than just to the west of Alice. The once pastoral lease of Simpsons Gap now under the management of Territory Parks who in their bumbling efforts to manage very successful pasture growth saddled by patronising paternal beliefs about firestick farming have set out to cold burn the park on every occasion there has been a bit of dry grass in sight. On nearly every occasion they have lost control of their burn and instead of burning small parcels have burned nearly the entire park and its surrounds, creating an ecological disaster, wiping out colonies of rare wildlife, threatening their own and the town’s infrastructure.
So what did they achieve with the burn? What did they prevent?
I hope those reading this will gain some understanding of the fundamental stupidity of our present approach to fire management and take a long hard look at how we go about it. Yes fire has to be used to prevent and contain fire but the emphasis must be on the word prevent!! It is simply not OK to burn!!
Fire management must concentrate its energies on the establishment of graded fire breaks at considerable greater frequency. Emphasis must be put on fire intelligence and rapid response with an all out goal of extinguishment of any fire event as rapidly as possible. Much greater emphasis particularly in national parks needs to be given to grazing – eat the dam stuff, it’s food! The grazing of cattle and national parks are not mutually exclusive nor is the survival of wildlife, understand that country, industry, people and wildlife are immensely damaged by fire, minimise its presence on our landscape! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to burn the house – can’t live with the risk of it catching fire any longer.

ED – The Alice Springs News Online will offer right of reply to Parks and Wildlife about the burns at Simpsons Gap.

ED – A spokesperson for Parks and Wildlife provided the following response:

The Parks and Wildlife Service has demonstrated sound management practices undertaking prescribed burns on park estate with Traditional Owners for over 30 years. It has been proven through numerous reviews and studies (including the recent Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s response) that country will eventually burn and burn more extensively and hotter if just left until the occurrence of lightning strike fires or “accidental” ignition, especially in extensive fuel load situations that prevail following extended periods of above average rainfall, whether grazed or un-grazed.

Steve Brown Also Commented

Fire in the desert: a formidable threat and a tool
Don’t you just love that little comment from our wonderfully competent friends in Territory Parks! So if an Aboriginal person stands alongside you when you drop the match to light a fire does it burn differently than if you do it yourself? Would you agree that an attitude of accepting that it does could be regarded as patronizing paternalism or in fact just plain racism used to justify an unjustifiable position?
So to prevent the possible event of some supposed impossibly hot fire you are prepared to burn again and again and again which in a period of twenty years may mean you’ve burnt dozens of times to prevent a possible fire that may never have occurred naturally in that time?
Just this week you been hooraying the wonderful find of our local possum species the same ones that your cold burn policy wiped from existence on Simpsons Gap some years ago probably explains your relief at the new find. Nice to know that a cold burn wasn’t responsible for the extermination of the last of the species, then again got any cold burns coming up soon at Ormiston?
The fact is your policy of cold burning has been an environmental disaster of which your department should be utterly ashamed! Time to take a fresh approach. Use fire to prevent fire around vital infrastructure. Forget the Victorian bush fires. Concentrate on your own region where the management issues are completely different. You are not burning off to prevent fire damage to nearby infrastructure as in Victoria. You are burning off because some academic heard somewhere that that is what traditional owners used to do. It is simply not true!
If they had they would have starved to death in half a generation! Stop the blatant vandalism of our parks by blow-in racist academics.


Recent Comments by Steve Brown

Wakefield insists on Anzac Oval, ignores majority
The longer this process goes on the more likely we are to lose it altogether. That’s a loss of $150m into our economy, just on build!
The government has made up its mind on the site. That’s their right! That’s what we elect them for, to make what they see as the best decision, on our behalf!
So, while about 4% of the population whinge about it, and try to foil the process, keep this in mind.
If it doesn’t go ahead at Anzac there will be no new rugby grounds! Another $20m to $30m.
There will be no amphitheatre or the CBD space to put one. Another $3m to $4m.
We will miss out on an expansion of CBD parking. Millions more!
And we will miss the opportunity to create much increased foot traffic into the CBD and the resulting growth in small business. Millions more.
There is now very little chance of it going anywhere else. It will either go at the Anzac Hill site or we will lose it altogether!
Federal Politicians looking for an excuse to fund it in South Australia have been handed exactly what they want, local dissent!
It shouldn’t take much more to tip the scales, if the damage hasn’t already been done.
If we believe in our community, if we want to grow our economy, create opportunity for ourselves and our children into the future we have to be prepared to accept change, to put our petty likes and dislikes along with what often amounts to rather shallow competitive political viewpoints aside for the greater good.
To put it bluntly, “suck it up and stand aside in support of the best obtainable outcome for our community!
Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face!


The millions and the misery
Interesting article that this may be, I would not like to see discussion centred around the ins and out of funding to various Aboriginal organisations being conflated in anyway with our discussions around funding and locating our proposed youth centre.
We are attempting to get a whole of community approach to this!
That approach, if it is to be successful, will most certainly include the organisations mentioned.
While we clearly share everyone’s enthusiasm for the Old Memo Club as an ideal site for our centre and have said so publicly on a number of occasions, the fact remains that this is the legally owned property of Centercorp and the only way that we could possibly acquire it for the centre is if these organisations believe in our cause and choose to come on board, something that I very much encourage them to do.
My apologies Centrecorp and Congress if we have caused inconvenience, we were “dreaming” our best possible options for getting something off the ground, ASAP.
We fervently hope in the interests of this community’s children you will give the promoted concept some very serious consideration and come to understand as many already have, the true value to the community, and all your investment in it
It is having a happy, healthy, united community where kids know they are cared for and see exciting future prospects in front of them, with staff, volunteers and mentors from our new centre showing the way.


Memo Club for 24/7 youth centre?
@ Evelyne: No, definitely too far from CBD and don’t think the neighbours would be to keen.
The bed requirement part of the concept is “emergency bed requirement” only, as per “Careful’s” comment probably not a large demand for it. We could manage with temporary facilities and grow after assessing demand.
I imagine that most kids would catch the bus at the cessation of evening activities. The most important part of this centre will be kitchen, dining and activities which would also clearly encompass such things as after school care.
As for existing facilities: This is not a petty competition nor are we interested in the petty politics of those more interested in protecting their own backsides than looking after children.
Let’s deal with the basic facts: Governments of all persuasions have struggled with this issue for 50 years or so. They have funded and de-funded all manner of organisations in the process!
And they have failed.
Yes, there are existing organisation who have cross over interests.
However, we still have the issue.
In fact it is a large growing generational issue, at times literally hundreds of kids hanging about on our streets, growing crime and increasing isolation, increasing division, increasing us and them, increasing have and have not and increasing community anger and resentment.
The concept of bringing kids and community members, not just street kids into a central location, is not just about food and activities, it is about containing the hanging out to a really “cool” location and it is about cross community interaction.
Breaking down the division!
It is about rebuilding a community out of a rapidly growing divide that threatens its very foundations.
The issue is far greater than the petty self interests of a few professional youth workers who feel someone is intruding on their turf!
If your a genuine committed professional youth worker you will know the value of the community interaction too which I refer and you will get on board.
This is not a government initiative, it is a community movement, the only ones in the end who can really make a difference.
And not just for neglected kids, not just for underprivileged kids, but for all the kids in our community, which in the end means a difference for all of us!
We envisage that those centres already working in this area would come on board and work with us, probably moving their services into the central complex or maintain offices there, or doing pick ups and drop offs so that everybody’s together, part of the activity and excitement, of things going on: That is what we want to create.
We have said all along, while we are looking at a community youth centre driven by volunteers it would also incorporate professional management and youth workers.
This is about everybody in the sector putting aside selfish interest and uniting to bring about effective change.
It’s about making a massive difference to a whole lot of young lives and making our community a whole lot happier place to live for everybody.


Memo Club for 24/7 youth centre?
While I share the enthusiasm for getting our priorities right and dealing with our Youth issue first up, projects such as the art gallery are equally important in building a successful community … no economy, no people, no funds or assistance for a centre.
So we aren’t looking to swap one for another, we are looking to do both and more!
Importantly I can report to you that I am running into a great deal of support for the youth centre project from all sectors and I don’t think we are going to have to many issues funding this project, even with the art centre going ahead.
The cross community support I have encountered so far leads me to believe we are going to be successful in getting the project off the ground.
My real concern at this stage is the amount of time it will take to do that!
Obviously if we can’t find an existing facility of the right size and location i.e. the Memo Club there is likely to be a period of at least a couple of years before we can build and be operational.
This is a really urgent issue, requiring immediate action, especially when you think of those two years through the eyes of an eight year old child virtually living on the streets.
Two years is a lifetime, and for that matter for a town being battered by a street kid crime wave, two years is also an eternity!
So clearly we need to act and act now! All ideas are welcome but we must have large open space kitchen and dining, multiple toilets / bathrooms to cater for several hundred kids in a central well lit location.


Memo Club for 24/7 youth centre?
We were always aware that Congress had intentions for the Old Memo Club and our project certainly doesn’t hinge on being able to get our hands on those premises.
I put it forward as a potential location so that everyone would understand the desired CBD location, building size and layout that our proposed Centre requires, large open areas, dining and kitchen facilities – very much like the Memo Club.
This of course would have been ideal if it were available.
So if you change your mind Congress, there’s a lot of kids who would greatly appreciate it.
In the meantime I imagine we will be looking for temporary premises to get things underway while we raise the funds to build to our design.


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