Ten years of right-way fire management on Wunambal Gaambera Country (Uunguu Coast) has significantly reduced wildfires.

In the 10 years Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation has partnered with Bush Heritage Australia, wildfires have significantly reduced from 26 per cent of Country burnt to fewer than ten per cent.

Wunambal Gaambera country covers some of the most remote tourist destinations in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, including Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) and Munurru (King Edward River).

This partnership has resulted in the Health Country Plan, where Wunambal Gaambera people identified ten crucial targets in keeping Country healthy. One of these was the practice of right-way fire management.

Right-way fire management involves a combination of traditional and modern ground and aerial burning techniques in the cooler season. Only 20 per cent of Country is burnt in patches to prevent wildfires.

Traditional Owner and Uunguu ranger Jeremy Kowan said patch burning on Country benefited native animals.

“Burning is good for the animals, one big area will be cleaned up by fire and we start to see that new growth and animals come back to that area to eat the new vegetation,” he said.

“They (the animals) can get away, they don’t get blocked by the fire.

“Just by looking at animals, like emu and kangaroos, if they are strong and healthy we know the Country is healthy.”

Right-way fire management on Country also stimulates bush foods and protects cultural sites, Mr Kowan said.

“We burn slow, slow, slow to stop all that hot fire rushing, so it burns all over the countryside,” he said.

“We burn around the art sites to keep the grass lower…. Fire can destroy art sites, crack all the painting in the rocks.”

This year’s fire season on Wunambal Gaambera Country concluded on June 30.

Wunambal Gaambera manages a 2.5 million hectares of graa (land) and wundaagu (saltwater) native title estate.

Some 343,700 hectares within the native title estate is a declared Indigenous Protected Area, home to vulnerable animals such as wulumara (longneck turtle), yilangal (scaly tail possum) and monjon, the world’s smallest rock wallaby.