What is cultural burning?

    Aboriginal people have been using fire to maintain the health of the Australian landscape for tens of thousands of years. Cultural burning is the skilled and intentional use of fire by Aboriginal people for improved environmental, land management and spiritual connection. These burns are typically characterised by low-intensity, small flames and typically occur during the cooler months. A national conversation is occurring amongst fire authorities and other organisations around the integration and expansion of cultural burning programs into land management practices to better care for country and assist in the prevention of large-scale, destructive wildfire.

    Why burn in the Park Lands?


    Native vegetation across Australia, including the Adelaide Park Lands, has a strong association and reliance on fire for maintaining condition and healthy regeneration. The City of Adelaide (CoA) maintains Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA – see photo in the Image Gallery) to conserve the natural flora and fauna.

    As the traditional custodians of the region, the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains have a strong historical association of applying cultural burning techniques to their Country for environmental and cultural reasons.

    This project will allow the Kaurna people to continue their significant cultural practice, with the benefit of assisting CoA to improve the condition of this KBA.


    Where is the cultural burn taking place?


    The cultural burn (burn) will take place in an area of grassland in Carriageway Park, Tuthangga (Park 17). The area burnt will be patchy and less than 1 hectare in size. (See photo in the Image Gallery).


    Why did you choose that spot to burn?

    The CoA maintains KBAs to protect the natural ecosystems in the Adelaide Park Lands. This area is within one of these KBAs, contains remnant native grassland species and any fire within the area can be easily controlled. It provides all the conditions necessary for a safe pilot burn.

    Can I attend the burn?

    We are still finalising details of the burn event. If an opportunity exists for members of the public to attend the burn, we will publicise it on this project page, on our Facebook page and What's On listings. Stay tuned for more information.

    When will the burn occur and why then?

    The burn will occur in May 2021, dependent on weather conditions. Many of the ecological systems in southern Australia have adapted to thrive with infrequent ‘cool’ burns during Autumn or Winter. These burns are closely associated with the intentional and skilled use of fire by Aboriginal people.

    At this time there should still be adequate fuel (e.g. dry grasses) to burn, but the risk of producing a damaging fire will have passed.

    Who is going to conduct the burn?

    Trained members of the Kaurna community will work alongside Indigenous Fire Management expert, Victor Steffensen. Personnel from the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) fire team will be at the event to learn from and share the experience. They will also be available as a fire control resource if needed. They have met with Victor Steffensen and they have discussed the approach on the day.

    Can the fire get out of control?

    It is highly unlikely that the fire will pose any risk. These burns are conducted under extremely controlled conditions that consider many conditions including weather, fuel load, soil and vegetation moisture, etc.

    The DEW fire team will be onsite with suitable equipment for containing the burn and the Metropolitan Fire Service will be on standby in the unlikely event that more assistance is needed.

    What happens to the animals?

    Cultural burns are low in intensity and move slowly, which means wildlife can move or take shelter away from the fire easily.

    Will the fire smoke affect my asthma?


    Given the small size of these fires, unless you are very close to the burn it is unlikely that the fire will affect your asthma. There may be minimal amounts of smoke if you attend the event, but you may notice the smell of fire in the air.

    However, it is recognised that fire smoke can be a major trigger for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. If this is the case, we recommend you stay away from Carriageway Park, Tuthangga (Park 17) during the Burn. 

    For more information please refer to the Asthma and bushfire smoke fact sheet or visit the Asthma Foundation SA website.


    How does burning align with the Council’s carbon reduction goals?

    The CoA is committed to reducing emissions with a goal of becoming carbon neutral.

    The small scale of this burn means that the greenhouse gas emissions are immaterial under the Commonwealth Government’s Climate Active guidelines, which the CoA follows for its greenhouse gas accounting. As a result, the emissions related to this event will not be included in our greenhouse gas inventory.

    Will traffic be affected?

    No. The fire will be confined to small patches in the park that are away from any nearby roads. Any smoke produced will be negligible and not affect traffic.

    What will happen after the Burn?

    In the winter months following the burn we expect a flush of native plants and non-native weed species to temporarily take advantage of the bare ground.

    Any weeds will be carefully managed by the CoA's Biodiversity Team to favour any native plants in the area.

    It is expected that after approximately three years the site will resemble a similar condition to how it appeared before the burn, but with small improvements to the native vegetation.

    The area may undergo further cultural burns that will improve the condition of native vegetation over time.

    Kaurna event and monitoring of burn site in the Park Lands:

    The reintroduction of cultural burning is a significant event for the Kaurna community. Kaurna cultural monitors will be staying onsite the night preceding the burn, and Kaurna members will also be staying onsite the night of the burn to monitor the fire and ensure the area is safe.

    The Kaurna community would like interested members of the public to know they are welcome to engage, interact and show their support whilst they are onsite.

    What happens next?

    We will acknowledge your feedback as it arrives.

    Your feedback will assist us in assessing public sentiment and understanding about the planned burn and about cultural burning in the Park Lands more generally.