Using cultural burning to regenerate Nangak Tamboree

Cultural burning practices have been used by Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people for countless generations as a way of managing, regenerating and healing Country.

But it’s a tool that has been largely absent from the landscape for many generations after Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people were forbidden to maintain the practice.

“Over the years, the impacts of weeds and non-indigenous animals, as well as the increasingly unpredictable weather events have severely impacted the health of Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country,” said Sean Hunter, Narrap Unit Manager at the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

“Cultural burning follows the cultural protocols of healing and caring for Country. It helps us to manage and limit the impact of weeds; regenerate native vegetation; and enhance biodiversity to improve the health of Country overall,” he said.

The Narrap Unit are working to reactivate the traditional practice of cultural burning as a form of land management across Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country. The practice will be used to manage weeds and regenerate native plant species as part of the first phase of a long-term revegetation project at La Trobe University.

The project will see the full riparian corridor revegetated along Nangak Tamboree - a biodiverse waterway that connects with Darebin Creek in the south, runs through La Trobe’s Melbourne Campus in Bundoora to the Nangak Tamboree Wildlife Sanctuary, the agricultural reserve and then beyond to the north. Nangak Tamboree means respecting/sharing/looking after the waterway in Woi-wurrung language of Wurundjeri people.

The first phase of the project will be implemented over the next three years through a collaboration between Melbourne Water, the Darebin Creek Management Committee, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (WWCHAC) and La Trobe University.

Danny Reddan from the Darebin Creek Management Committee, said that this initial phase will focus on the parkland along the Darebin Creek frontage – an area covering 92,000 square metres.

“The use of Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung cultural burning practices along the creek is more than just weed control, as we anticipate many indigenous plants will regenerate in response to the fire. Following this, we expect to plant up to 10,000 indigenous seedlings in 65 different varieties to supplement those that have not regenerated,” he said.

Tony Inglis, Project Director at La Trobe University said the revegetation project will also create opportunities for research while forging new links with our local community.

“As part of the project, the Narrap Unit will also monitor and record vegetation response and the impact of fire, which is an essential part of cultural burning, and students from La Trobe University will establish research projects that monitor the improvement of the habitat by tracking invertebrate populations and native vegetation regeneration.

“The project also forms part of La Trobe’s University City of the Future transformation and our long-term commitment to enhance and protect Nangak Tamboree over the coming years for the benefit of the University and the community,” Tony said.

The project will also support the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation to create opportunities for more women to be trained and develop skills in Natural Resource Management. As a multi-year project, it helps strengthen the Narrap Unit in its objective of providing a pathway for more women to become Narrap Rangers, and continue the vital work of healing and maintaining Country.

To find out more about the project visit

The Revegetating Nangak Tamboree project would like to acknowledge the support of the Ross Trust.

About the cultural burning at La Trobe University:

The cultural burning will be conducted by Narrap Rangers from Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

These will be controlled ‘cool’ burns conducted along the Darebin Creek frontage (click to enlarge map) from May – June 2021, carried out on days of low fire risk. The burns 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.

Image 2: The Waterways Blitz team from Melbourne Water were on site recently to commence woody weed removal along the Darebin Creek frontage.