Cultural burning brings back threatened species

The critically endangered Matted Flax-lily (Dianella amoena) has recently resurfaced along Darebin Creek following the re-introduction of cultural burning as part of La Trobe University’s long-term project to revegetate Nangak Tamboree over the next 5-10 years.

Danny Reddan from the Darebin Creek Management Committee said the Matted Flax-lily is known to be found in grassland or grassy woodland areas such as the Darebin Creek, but it hadn’t previously been recorded in the location where the cultural burn was undertaken.

“Following the use of cultural burning in this area of Darebin Creek, we’ve seen around 20 shoots of the endangered Matted Flax-lily now emerging, which is fantastic to see and we look forward to watching it flower and keeping an eye out for other species that may pop up as spring continues.

“We know that in native grasslands, fire removes the grass thatch which creates an open space for native species to thrive, and the smoke from fire often activates seed germination, or in this case, vegetative growth,” Danny said.

In May this year, Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Narrap Rangers utilised cultural burning practices to manage weeds and regenerate native plant species along a section of the Darebin Creek frontage.

The purpose of cultural burning is to follow the cultural protocols of healing and caring for Country by managing the impact of weeds, regenerating native vegetation and enhancing biodiversity and improving the health of Country overall.

“Since we conducted the cultural burn in May this year, our Narrap Rangers have been monitoring and recording vegetation response and the impact of fire, which is common practice and an essential part of cultural burning,” said Sean Hunter, Narrap Unit Manager at the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

“The fact that we’re seeing this endangered species now emerge shows the benefits of re-introducing this sacred practice to the land,” Sean said.

The Matted Flax-lily is indigenous to Victoria and flowers from late-spring to summer with purple-blue flowers. It’s estimated that there are only 2,500 remaining in the state.

Now that the species has appeared in this location, it will be closely monitored and protected within a fenced area that will become home to further plants to be introduced in the coming years.

The revegetation project is part of La Trobe’s long-term commitment to enhance and protect Nangak Tamboree, which will see the full riparian corridor along the waterway revegetated over the next 5-10 years. Phase one of the project is underway along the Darebin Creek frontage and involves regenerating indigenous plant species and managing weed infestation through Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung fire practice and manual weed removal and revegetating 92,000 m2 with indigenous plant species.

The Revegetating Nangak Tamboree project is being implemented through a collaboration between Melbourne Water, the Darebin Creek Management Committee, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (WWCHAC) and La Trobe University. The project would like to acknowledge the support of the Ross Trust.

To find out more about the project visit www.latrobe.edu.au/nangak-tamboree.

Planned burn along Darebin Creek – Wednesday 20 October 2021

As part of the project, Darebin Creek Management Committee and Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Narrap Rangers will undertake an additional planned burn along the Darebin Creek on Wednesday 20 October 2021, to support the efforts to date to manage weeds and regenerate native plant species.

This “reset” burn – which is different to cultural burning – will be carried out on days of low fire risk may take place over a number of days and up to a few hours at a time. People in the vicinity many see small amounts of localised smoke.

Main image: The Matted Flax-lily (Dianella amoena) has emerged along Darebin Creek following the practice of cultural burning.

Image 2: A cultural burn along Darebin Creek was conducted earlier this year to help manage weeds and regenerate native plant species.