Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is Aboriginal land. Our people have kept it healthy for thousands of years. Today, we work hand-in-hand with Parks Australia to manage Kakadu, using a mix of traditional ways and modern science.

Age-old skills such as patch burning are integral to the modern management of the park.

Each tropical summer, the plants grow quickly after monsoonal rains. As things dry out, all this vegetation turns into dangerous amounts of bushfire fuel. Our rangers use traditional patch burning to clear the fuel load, helping to prevent big bushfires late in the year.

Like our ancestors, we light small fires early in the year, while it’s still nice and cool. The animals have time to escape to unburnt habitat, and the fire stimulates new growth. This patchwork of burnt and unburnt land makes it hard for big bushfires to spread.

This way of burning has developed over many generations.

Before the arrival of non-Aboriginal people, 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; and to fulfil spiritual and cultural obligations. This created suitable habitats for a range of different plants and animals.

With the arrival of non-Aboriginal people, our population decreased. Many people died of disease, others moved off their land to towns and settlements. With fewer people on the land, less burning was carried out so hot, late dry season wildfires became more common. These hot fires were often large and destructive, changing the mix of plants and animals. Since Kakadu National Park was declared, we have worked together with park managers to fix this - it’s a great example of our joint management work.