Reigniting Connections: Aboriginal women and cultural burning in NSW

Ms Vanessa Cavanagh1

1University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


There is a long relationship between Aboriginal people, fire and Country. In Australia this relationship supported sustainable livelihoods for thousands of generations. European invasion resulted in Aboriginal people being displaced from our lands and cultural practices, including the use of fire. Recently, there has been a push from Aboriginal groups to reinvigorate cultural burning practices. Cultural burning can produce environmental and social outcomes, such as bushfire hazard reduction; benefits can include strengthening cultural identities and communities, encouraging continuing cultural practice and intergenerational knowledge transfer. Working within an Indigenous research framework, this research aims to better understand Aboriginal women’s engagement in cultural burning in NSW. In this presentation I examine the gendered dimensions of cultural burning in NSW including barriers to participation, meanings and outcomes. My research seeks to positively influence cultural burning policy development and management, to support an increase in Aboriginal women’s participation.


Vanessa Cavanagh is from the Bundjalung and Wonnarua Aboriginal nations. Her career is focused on Indigenous in caring for Country relationships, of which Vanessa has both practical and theoretical experience. Vanessa is a PhD candidate and an Associate Lecturer within ACCESS in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities at UOW.

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