More than 40,000 years of Indigenous occupation in Australia involved regularly burning patches of country to manage wildfires, to hunt and regenerate the land.
Some areas with a small amount of grass were burned regularly, areas with thicker grass were burned less frequently and those areas with fire-sensitive plants were left untouched.
By creating fire patches, Aboriginal people prevented wildfires becoming large, uncontrollable and frequent.
Over thousands of years, endemic plants and animals adapted and became reliant on the traditional practice.
Jawoyn land managers and rangers burn areas to control wildfire and regenerate tracts of land, utilising traditional methods employed by their ancestors tens of thousands of years ago.
The Jawoyn Association burns land through its own programs and through the Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project. The approach is aimed at preventing late season wildfires and reducing overall CO2 emissions.
As the Wet season subsides and vegetation begins to dry, early aerial and on- ground burning is conducted.
Jawoyn Rangers are paramount in planning due to their intimate knowledge of their country, and are employed to undertake on-ground burning work.
The Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project
The Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) is a project in which mining and energy company Conoco Phillips pays traditional landowner groups and Aboriginal Rangers to burn the Arnhem Plateau area as a carbon offset.
The Jawoyn Association is a major partner in the WALFA project, holding approximately 45 per cent of the WALFA region.
WALFA stakeholders, including traditional owners, the Northern Territory Bushfires Council and neighbouring land managers meet each year before the burning season to develop a strategic controlled burning plan.
WALFA's 2,800,000 hectares was initiated with a target reduction of 100,000 tonnes CO2 emissions annually, however over three years the project has yielded a reduction of 420,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The Jawoyn Association is working to implement fire management practices across Jawoyn Lands not currently covered by WALFA. It also proposes to utilise joint WALFA-based fire management practices with Nitmiluk National Park.
Should the extension succeed, 2,800,000 hectares of WALFA, 292,008 hectares of Nitmiluk National Park and 1,980,400 hectares of Kakadu National Park fire-managed areas will be connected through 646,082 hectares of WALFA Extension. This will create a total of 5,718,490 hectares of country with coherent and coordinated fire management.
The WALFA Extension project aims to conduct scientific plot monitoring to establish carbon output baseline data with a view to establishing a tradable carbon credit. The measurement of fuel load to calculate carbon outputs from fire, and thereby outputs saved by managing fire, directly follows the WALFA model. Carbon credits may be saleable by Jawoyn Traditional Owners on the proposed carbon trading market.
The proposed project area of 646,082 hectares has the potential to produce a minimum of 32,000 CO2* of saleable carbon credits annually at a cost less than $6 per tonne of CO2*. With the addition of Nitmiluk National Park 938,090 hectares the project area may produce a minimum of 46,500 CO2* annually.
(* = minus emissions)