The second of three workshops organised by the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council in conjunction with Red Chief Local Aboriginal Land Council was held at Boonalla Aboriginal area recently, with a focus on cultural burning and bush foods.

The first workshop was to meet and talk with the community and the third will be a cultural burning at the Boonalla Aboriginal area when conditions suit. 

Many elders and locals attended along with students from Gunnedah High School, keen to learn land control techniques used for thousands of years and sample the best bush food. 

Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Sam Desforges said the second workshop was focused on sharing culture and knowledge and combining ecology with traditional practices, especially regarding fire management. 

“These workshops are reacquainting community with culture,” Mr Desforges said.

“The workshops are funded through the Australian government’s Indigenous Land and Fire Management Workshops Program.”

Ranger Kane Patterson gave a talk on how traditional burnings work.

“The burn is kept at knee height and there is no burning of the canopy as that is where the seeds of the plants are,” Mr Patterson said.

“Cultural burns are not hectares at a time and are slow, so there is no impact to the animals.

“These workshops are about knowledge and it is great to see many children interested and learning.”

Melaleuca environmental ecologist Michelle McKemey said she has been working with Aboriginal communities to combine western land management practices and indigenous methods and has created a fire in seasons calendar as a guide to controlled burning. 

“This is about long-term ecology and a diversity of knowledge systems,” Ms McKemey said.

“We are looking at how plants and animals respond to cultural burning and reading the country which is what the fire in seasons calendar encompasses.

“If anyone has any long-term observations they have made through each month and season in the country, it would be great to hear from them.”

Michelle O’Leary and Ted Fields from Uraah Innovation and Cultural Services cooked up a storm of delicious bush food, including crocodile, slow-cooked kangaroo stew, kangaroo mince and sausages, wattle seed damper, myrtle cupcakes, quandong sauce and lemon myrtle sauce, with the aromas of the sizzling crocodile making mouths water while presentations were held.

There were also bush medicines and artefacts on display, including emu eggs which had been blown out by Michelle’s grandchildren and clapsticks and a possum cloak which was made by 20 women at a camp near Narran Lakes. 

Gunnedah High students, Josie Gallagher and Zoe Morgan said it was a really fun and interesting day.

“We really liked it,” they said.

“We learnt heaps about the vegetation and things like that and the food was really good.”

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