Wunambal Gaambera’s primary tool for keeping country healthy, is the Right Way Fire Program. Right Way Fire is focused on a combination of burning country according to traditional principles and utilising available technologies.
Each family is responsible for doing right way burning to keep their graa (their traditional part of country) clean and healthy. Their recommendations are put into the Annual Fire Plan and young Traditional Owners take part in annual burning activities. Burning is undertaken from vehicles and aircraft in Yurrma - the early dry season months.
Wunambal Gaambera’s Right Way Fire program focuses on creating mosaics of patch fires and connecting breaks to 20 percent of the country, mitigating damaging wildfires, occurring to less than 10 percent of country, in Yuwala (October-December), when conditions are more severe. Burning is also done along roads and around infrastructure to keep tourists, Traditional Owners and communities safe.
Wunambal Gaambera’s Uunguu Rangers and Traditional Owners look after important animal and plant habitats and important cultural sites with fire. Each year fire walks take place through country. These are an important time for Wunambal Gaambera people to teach younger Traditional Owners how to burn “right-way” while walking the country.
“Our ancestors used right-way fire from generation-to-generation”, says Neil Waina, Head Uunguu Ranger (pictured above). “They passed their knowledge to us and we will pass it down to the next generation.”
Neil says his people feel good doing burns because they return the country to good health. But late dry season burns, or wildfires, are different.
“When you see late season burning, the country isn’t looking good. If there’s a hot fire, hardly anything will grow in that area... No hunting, no life.”
Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation have a registered Savanna Burning project generating Australian carbon credits by reducing wildfires, with some 186,784 tonnes of greenhouse gas abated since 2012. This is the equivalent of 5,120 4WDs in the north Kimberley over the same 8-year period. (Landcruiser 70, 4 door 4WD, 20,000 kms/year emits 4.31t per year).
Right Way Fire is one of ten targets (the most important things to look after) of the Healthy Country Plan. Using traffic light indicators (red, yellow, green), WGAC reports annually to Wunambal Gaambera people on both the health of the ten targets and the progress of implementing the plan’s work to look after the targets. At the start of the plan in 2010, the Right Way Fire target was yellow (fair health), but Right Way Fire work over the past eight years has changed the target to green (good health).