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Working paper

Cultural burning in New South Wales: challenges and opportunities for policy makers and Aboriginal peoples

Bushfire prevention Bushfires Indigenous knowledge Land management Environmental management First Peoples land management New South Wales


The Independent Inquiry into the New South Wales (NSW) experience of the 2019–20 summer bushfires revealed that in NSW, Aboriginal people have not been adequately supported to pursue cultural land management opportunities, including cultural burning. The NSW Government accepted all recommendations from the Inquiry, generating a strategic opportunity for Aboriginal people in NSW to re-establish cultural land management activities and cultural burning. Drawing on the history of Caring for Country in northern and central Australia, and current developments to support Aboriginal people in southern temperate Australia, this paper maps the challenges and opportunities to support cultural land management programs in NSW. It considers ‘what next’ for cultural burning in NSW, by delving into the current governance arrangements in NSW Aboriginal communities and organisational cultures of NSW Government agencies. This reveals that much more must be done to confront historical issues of land justice and marginalisation. The paper also draws on the strengths of Aboriginal people to map ways forward to support the resurgence of cultural land management and in particular, cultural burning in NSW.

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CAEPR Working Paper 139/2020