People, place and practices
: digital technologies in the changing world of fire management in northern Australia

  • Julie Anne Crough

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Decades of research have demonstrated that fire management is one of the key land management issues for northern Australia. Fire management, through caring for country programs and carbon markets, provide livelihood opportunities and future options for Aboriginal people living in Australia’s tropical savannas. Such opportunities have potential socio-cultural, health and economic benefits for Indigenous communities as well as collateral benefits including biodiversity conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

    This research critically analyses the current theories and research underpinning the nexus between fire management, digital technologies, capacity building, training and learning for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in northern Australia. The research focuses on a limited stakeholder analysis with fire managers and other people involved in fire management in northern Australia. The study also investigates two significant fire abatement projects as case studies involving Payment for Environmental Services schemes: West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) and Fish River Station.

    This investigation demonstrates how digital technologies have transformed recent perceptions and practices in fire management in Australia’s fire-prone savannas. Digital technologies have also been instrumental in reinstating more traditional burning practices that were disrupted with European settlement. However, the research findings identify how existing digital tools and rigid regulatory frameworks for the carbon markets can unintentionally establish power relations and marginalise Aboriginal people from participating more integrally in fire management and abatement opportunities.

    As successfully demonstrated in WALFA, the researcher recommends approaches that move towards convergence of seemingly incommensurate knowledge systems that connect and work together in fire operations. Such approaches involve prioritising pathways that build capacity, particularly for Indigenous people. From a convergent place-based space, targeted adaptive training programs are recommended that develop transferable capabilities such as computer literacies, GIS and business skills. These will empower Indigenous stakeholders, particularly rangers, to participate more integrally in fire management and abatement opportunities in northern Australia.

    Date of AwardJul 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Christie (Supervisor), Peter Jacklyn (Supervisor) & Jerry Schwab (Supervisor)

    Cite this