Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is Aboriginal land. Our people have kept it healthy for thousands of years.

Today we work with Parks Australia to manage Kakadu using a mix of traditional ways and modern science.

Kakadu’s plants grow quickly after the monsoonal rains of the tropical summer. As the land dries out, this vegetation can become fuel for dangerous bushfires.

Like our ancestors, Kakadu’s rangers use traditional patch burning to clear this fuel and prevent big bushfires later.

Patch burning

We light small fires early in the year while it’s still nice and cool. The fires encourage new growth, while the patchwork of burnt and unburnt land makes it more difficult for bushfires to spread. Using small fires also means animals have plenty of time to escape to unburnt habitat.

This way of burning has developed over many generations. Before non-Aboriginal people arrived, we lit fires for many reasons:

  • to make travelling easier
  • to flush out animals when hunting
  • to protect food resources (such as yams) from later fires
  • to clear around camp sites
  • to signal to others
  • to fulfil spiritual and cultural obligations.

These fires created habitats for diverse plants and animals.

But when non-Aboriginal people arrived, our population decreased. Many people died of disease, while others were forced off their land to towns and settlements. This meant that less burning was carried out, and hot, late dry-season wildfires became more common.

The fires were often large and destructive, which changed the mix of plants and animals. Since Kakadu was declared a National Park, we have worked with park managers to fix this.

Caring for country using age-old patch-burning techniques is just one example of our joint management work with Parks Australia.