Moranghurk Cultural Burning, Lethbridge

Understanding the importance of cultural burning

Published 28 November 2023 28 November 2023


The Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands Cultural Burning Program aims to improve understanding of cultural burning as a management tool in Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands and embed Traditional Owner practices into natural resource management.

The program supports Wadawurrung Traditional Owners to build capacity on Country and heal Country and its people. 

What is Cultural Burning?

The Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands are open woodlands full of majestic eucalypts, many of which are hundreds of years old. They provide critical habitat for a variety of nationally threatened species, including:

  • striped legless lizards
  • growling grass frogs
  • golden sun moths.

Cultural burning is an important management tool for the Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands because the fire reduces dead plant and weed material on the ground and promotes regeneration of native species.

The targeted subregion for this project encompasses the area from Shelford to the western flanks of the You Yangs, to Inverleigh in the south and Meredith in the north.

Moranghurk Cultural Burning, Lethbridge
Image credit - Corangamite CMA

The Grassy Eucalypt Woodland Cultural Burning Program utilises a partnership approach. It is an initiative of: 

  • the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
  • Corangamite CMA 
  • the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action (DEECA
  • Parks Victoria 
  • Forest Fire Management Victoria  
  • Golden Plains Shire  
  • the Country Fire Authority (CFA) 
  • and private landowners.  

The program is funded by the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program. 

The Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WTOAC) led the program from the beginning, enabling Wadawurrung Traditional Owners to identify Country that holds culturally significant importance to them. The WTOAC and members assisted in the development of the burn plans with public land managers, coordinated planning meetings and led each cultural burn. 

The WTOAC and Traditional Owners have culturally burned 20 hectares of critically endangered Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands at the You Yangs Regional Park, Bakers Lane Reserve, Teesdale and private property along the Moorabool River, Lethbridge.

You Yangs Cultural Burn

Wadawurrung Traditional Owners’ capacity to lead the planning and delivery of fire methods has also increased. The land management tool of cultural burning has allowed Wadawurrung Traditional Owners to use their knowledge of fire to help heal sick Country, and to lead in the teaching of this practice amongst members.

The program has evolved to support WTOAC to co-manage 20 hectares of Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands on public and private land to reintroduce traditional land management and cultural practices for the next five years.

Moranghurk Cultural Burn

“We want to work with everyone to rejuvenate the land because it’s the Country that we are looking after, nothing else but the Country”

Wadawurrung Traditional Owner and Wiyn Murrup Project Officer, Blair Gilson. 

“The Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands Project is an exciting opportunity to support land managers to protect and enhance these rare and beautiful ecological communities,” CCMA Project Officer Jess Lill said.

“Through this project, land managers will discover the native animals and plants that live within their own woodlands and how they can protect them.” 

The strong partnership between WTOAC and project partners promotes the use of cultural burning to heal Country, connect with Country and restore traditional land management practices. Since the cultural burns there has been an increase amongst participating land managers who are more open and willing to support Wadawurrung Traditional Owners in conducting cultural burns on Country – signifying an ongoing commitment towards supporting traditional land management practices.  

A long-term monitoring program has been established to provide greater understanding of the role of cultural burning practices in improving the condition of Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands and to facilitate knowledge exchange between Western and Traditional views. The WTOAC and project partners are undertaking the monitoring with training and support by the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research.

Community and Cultural Burns

Corangamite CMA understands it takes many years to restore cultural ecological values to Country and are committed to continuing their support of Traditional Owners in co-managing these culturally and ecological significant woodlands.