Savanna Fire Forum 2018

The Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, together with government and industry partners, held the first national Savanna Fire and Carbon forum, focused on supporting operational best-practice and the cohesive development of the Savanna fire and carbon industry.

Savanna Fire Forum 2018

Overview of the program


This forum facilitated discussions and sharing of experiences from across northern Australia, enabling the development of stronger networks between groups and individuals, identifying critical issues for the future of the industry. It is intended that the forum be the first of regular industry meetings designed to unite support for savanna fire management and related industries. The forum aimed to enable the development of a stronger network and common goals between groups and individuals and to provide a clearer articulation of industry needs.


The forum was supported directly through funding from the Northern Territory Government from Bushfires NT, the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) and ‘in kind’ support from Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Ltd (ALFA) and the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research (DCBR), Charles Darwin University. The organising committee included:

  • Paul Donohue – Indigenous Land Corporation, Australian Government
  • Andrew Edwards, Jay Evans, Rohan Fisher, Peter Jacklyn, Dominque Lynch, Kamal Sangha, Felicity Watt, Cameron Yates – Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Charles Darwin University
  • Kate Richardson – Bushfires NT, Northern Territory Government
  • Jennifer Ansell – Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Ltd (ALFA)
  • Ben Docker, Ben Holt – Climate Change Division, Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian Government.

The forum was supported and facilitated by Paul Josif from Savvy Community Development Consultants.

Forum Structure

The forum involved a series of theme-based presentations from fire managers, scientists, government and industry representatives. Each themed session was accompanied by facilitated Q&A sessions with the expert speakers, and/or break out discussion groups. The forum comprised between 90 and 100 people over the 2 days. After each theme’s presentations, each table group were asked to respond to key questions. Comments were recorded using a WiFi-based platform, Group map, to capture input from groups in real-time, and project them onto screens around the room. At the end of the session, each of the groups could then assess responses and could ‘like’ them if they felt they supported the idea, thus weighting some responses and re-ordering the list. The moderator then summarised the responses at the end of the session.

Forum Opening

Welcome to Country was given by Donna Jackson from the Larrakia Nation, and the Forum was formally opened by the Hon. Lauren Moss MLA, NT Minister for the Department of the Environment & Natural Resources.


In her opening address, the minister emphasised the significant economic and environmental contribution made by fire management projects and the ongoing support from the NT government:

“Over recent years carbon farming projects and activities have become a substantial industry with indigenous carbon projects in the Emission Reduction Fund currently estimated to be valued at more than $50million. The majority of these projects are savanna fire management projects located in northern Australia. There are 25 savanna burning projects in the Territory, and they produce 52% of all Australian savanna burning carbon credits. Projects undertaken on Aboriginal land produce 92% of the carbon credits generated in the Territory. These Territory projects provide a unique combination of local land management outcomes and broader environmental benefits. Carbon farming projects and integrated land management fit well with the Government’s broader goals to support sustainable economic development and environmental protection on the country.”

Following the Minister, an introduction and commentary about the background and potential for the future were given by Dean Yibarbuk, Warddeken Land Management Ltd, and Professor Jeremy Russell-Smith, Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research.


Session 1: Best practice in fire management

Facilitated by Andrew Edwards

The session consisted of short presentations from a range of representatives from Savanna Burning projects. They each provided an overview of the project in terms of location, area and costs, the pre-project fire regime, how the fire regime has improved, challenges in planning and implementation, and ideas for solutions. Ultimately defining their perception of fire management Best Practice and outlining their future aspirations.

Many Savanna Burning projects have been successful in terms of changing fire regimes. Consequently, many projects have reduced their emissions and are earning enough Australian carbon credit units to pay for their programs. The Indigenous land sector represents the largest savanna burning project area (61%), and therefore the majority of presentations were provided by Indigenous Ranger groups. Only one project on pastoral land was able to present at the forum. Representatives from WA and NT National Park agencies also presented. The presentations included:

  • Warddeken Land Management Ltd, NT
  • Ban Ban Springs Pastoral, NT
  • Thamarrurr Ranger Group [Western Top End], NT
  • Jawoyn Association, NT
  • Nitmiluk National Park, Department of Tourism and Culture, NT
  • Kimberley Land Council, WA
  • Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions WA
  • Australian Wildlife Conservancy, WA
  • Wunambal Gaambera, WA
  • Natural Carbon, Qld
  • Aurukun, Qld


The 10 project areas ranged in area from 3,000 to 28,000 km2, and spend between $15 to $40 per km2. The most common challenges stated were:

  • Managing a proliferation of increased fuel loads, due to more areas remaining longer unburnt.
  • Affording and developing the capacity to suppress more high-intensity wildfires occurring as a consequence of increased fuel loads.
  • The low population, large areas and limited access (except, expensively, via chopper).
  • Having consistent funds available to implement the programs.
  • Developing enough capacity and large enough teams to do the work.
  • Effectively monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of fire management.
  • Getting ‘hung up’ on carbon and not using traditional knowledge or good science.
  • On non-Aboriginal land, competing for land uses with different management requirements.
  • In WA, uncertain or restrictive State Government Policy around Climate Change, Carbon Taxing, and Carbon Rights.

Some Solutions to the challenges were given:

  • Traditional Owners need to be consulted and in control.
  • On non-Aboriginal land, need more communication between stakeholders.
  • Need to engage both traditional and new knowledge systems.
  • Support fire management programs with funding from multiple streams.
  • Re-invest in fire management (Progressively acquire assets, build capacity and teams).
  • Improve access to remote areas through building new ranger bases.
  • On Park, developing and adhering to a Conservation Strategy.
  • On pastoral lands, better communication between the various land-use stakeholders.
  • Improve regional communication to develop more regionalised strategies.
  • Better inform the public of the importance of the ‘Right Way Fire’.

Each of the groups provided some key points to define their Best Practice:

  • Right Way Fire – Proper and informed Traditional Owner consultation and ownership.
  • Shift fire regimes from late to early dry season burning, to reduce fire intensity, increase fire patchiness, and reduce habitat impact.
  • Reduce the total area burnt, to increase area longer unburnt.
  • Improve and maintain capacity and resources.
  • Monitor and evaluate the effects of the change in fire regime on biodiversity.

Finally, each group provided a list of aspirations for the industry:

  • More Rangers, with appropriate knowledge, training, skills, and resources.
  • Improved technical information to monitor fires and the capacity to receive this information remotely.
  • Good two-way consultation, between Rangers and Traditional Owners.
  • Long-term sustainability of Rangers and funding.
  • Two-way monitoring and evaluation techniques to inform fire management.
  • Better leadership on carbon rights.

Break-out sessions

The first session question related to the group’s assessment of the common challenges:

  • The most common response related to ‘not getting hung up on carbon’, but instead to do what Traditional Owners and stakeholders’ thought was best for a healthy country.
  • The second most popular response identified the necessity for the use of Traditional Knowledge.
  • Ongoing support for the online fire mapping tool NAFI (North Australia Fire Information), and its enhancement, was highly ranked, then working towards developing positive public perception of the industry and developing a better capacity to monitor and evaluate the effects of the improved fire management.

The second question asked the group to describe what they thought were the most realistic outcomes, in terms of best practice:

  • The overwhelmingly most common responses related to getting Traditional Owners, young and old, back on to country, making them happy, and employing them.
  • Measuring success, but also from an Indigenous perspective, was important.
  • Good regional communications including roadside signage, biodiversity conservation, and sustainability of the industry.

The summaries from the Group map sessions and the ideas from the presentations aligned very well and provided a common understanding for the participants for the rest of the forum.

Session 2: Current and Future Method Development Information

Facilitated by Ben Docker and Cameron Yates

The savanna methods reflect an understanding of ecological processes and currently available data. An iterative process in data collection, interpretation and modelling that builds on existing approaches and integrity is fundamental to the continued improvement in accuracy of savanna fire management methods and the accounting for savanna carbon stocks and emissions in the national inventory.

Presenters described the new opportunities and challenges that come with developing additional methodologies for issuing ACCUs. under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and the practicalities of moving to and conducting a project under an anticipated new savanna sequestration method.

They also examined the current status of existing and further research as an input to developing a ‘savanna science roadmap’ to help guide further efforts based on a common understanding of opportunities and constraints through a model for collaborative engagement.

The session was structured as follows:

  • Clean Energy Regulator’s approach to administering the savanna methods.
  • Overview of the new emissions avoidance (only) and sequestration and avoidance (combined) methods and Q&A on practical implementation (e.g., transferring) and user needs for simpler guidance, including SavBAT 3 walkthrough/demonstration highlighting changes.
  • Key abatement elements of the 2018 methods, opportunities for further research and the method development pathway
  • Three types of updates/further development
  • Process for updates/changes and interaction with Offsets Integrity Standards
  • Interaction with the National Inventory

The Clean Energy Regulator presented their approach to method administration and working with registered projects; while the Department of the Environment and Energy presented and led a discussion on where the methods are at and where we see things going.

Issues raised by participants included:

  • Questions about the potential future demand for ACCUs and further government funding for the ERF.
    • The Department explained that funding decisions are a matter for Government through the regular budget process, but that there is a range of policy developments taking place which could have an impact on future demand. These include reviews of the safeguard mechanism, the role of international trading in carbon credits which the Government has said it will consider, as well as the detailed design of the National Energy Guarantee and the potential role of offsets in helping entities meet their emissions obligations under the Guarantee.
  • Concern about having to make changes to project management plans when conditions change through the course of a fire season.
    • The Department explained that it was not a requirement to update a project management plan. Only when submitting an offsets report would a project need to explain why a project management plan may not have been followed, provide when any revisions or updates were made and why something different was done.
  • Concern about the business uncertainty that comes with potential future changes to subsidiary material.
    • The Department explained that all methods rely to some extent on potential changes to subsidiary material. Given the ongoing research in this space, the Department has put in place a means through which the draft determinations can incorporate research outcomes that involve revising existing parameters. Outcomes outside of this scope will require either a formal variation or developing a new determination.
  • Concern about having to deal with gamba grass and not being able to bring an area back into a project once it has been removed.

The Department explained that the option to permanently remove gamba grass from a project area is consistent with state and territory laws, and not introducing additional management requirements. As the method calculations do not work with areas containing weeds, projects would not be allowed to keep these areas in a project if they were unable to permanently remove the infestation.

Session 3: Savanna Science Roadmap

Facilitated by Dr’s Andrew Edwards (CDU), Peter Whitehead, Natalie Rossitor-Rachor (CDU), Garry Cook (CSIRO) and Shaun Levick (CDU/CSIRO)

The Department of the Environment and Energy provided a brief introduction to the proposed savanna methods science roadmap. There was general interest from the audience in proceeding with the concept, with questions around timing and potential content. The presentation covered:

  • fire severity mapping as a potential alternative to the use of fixed dates for the start and end of the late dry season.
  • the data analysis being undertaken to inform the potential inclusion of live biomass sequestration in an unplanned future method.
  • potential remote sensing detection of gamba grass.
  • further fieldwork and analysis on dead organic matter including the standing deadwood in addition to the lying deadwood.
  • the use of LIDAR technology to calibrate satellite estimates of landscape biomass change.

The discussion emphasised the importance of transparent and consistent data management and identified future data collection arrangements being captured in the roadmap.

Breakout sessions were run to identify participants’ views on the current knowledge gaps in the methods and areas of uncertainty may be value in the Department addressing, as well as some of the key principles for collaboration between researchers and projects.

Opportunities within the broader policy context

The Department of the Environment and Energy addressed the broader policy framework as it relates to the savanna carbon industry during the ‘Industry Development’ panel. Topics covered included:

  • Outcomes of the 2017 Review of climate change policies
  • the Carbon Market Institute’s Carbon Farming Roadmap; and
  • the Indigenous Carbon Industry Roadmap.

The first breakout session question focused on eliciting what knowledge-gaps or areas of uncertainty in the methods do you think there is value in addressing, and why?

Accounting for variables

Including understanding and calculating seasonality and relationship to fire severity; Assessing the impact of removing cattle from carbon project areas [is it a double benefit?]; Better understanding of the relationship between fuel loads in grazed and non-grazed [cattle] environments. Uncertainty of the future of the ERF.


What about weeds other than Gamba? How to discern which weeds have the most effect? Gamba grass control and mapping. The government needs to take the Gamba grass problem more seriously and provide more information about its impacts on burning methodology, eradication or control, and rehabilitation.

Technology advances and integration

Remote sensing for fuel loads would reduce one of the biggest uncertainties. Gaps in knowledge about what are the best on ground tools to measure, plan and predict outcomes, such as tools for modelling rainfall patterns which could help to implement better burning regimes; and how to effectively increase the resolution of mapping (finer scale, so not missing fire scars) for operational fire management.

Sequestration in live biomass

Data already collected may not be applicable in the sequestration methodology. Need for an agreed position on sequestration. How can we reconcile timeframes for sequestration, against timeframes for important technology development such as LIDAR? Uncertainty was also expressed about transferring knowledge of savanna burning methodologies to other regions, in a particular country below 600mm. Concerns that there may not be flexibility to align methods with traditional practices and grass curing times.

Question 2: What do you see as the key principles for collaboration between researchers and projects?

Collaboration between Researchers and Projects: Ideas for Key Principles

Collaboration and high standard communications between end-users and researchers must be maintained from the start, and Traditional Owner (TO) engagement must be on the country. Proposals need to have realistic timeframes for firstly ‘getting up’, and then running. Having money available facilitates collaboration as Ranger and TO groups may not have many resources. Formulate a clear and agreed set of ethical and operational guidelines [e.g. Guidelines for Ethical Research In Australian Indigenous Studies, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2012]. The negotiation and development of a mutually informed agreement regarding data collection protocols and end-use and ownership of Intellectual Property is of primary importance. The balance of integrity of the method versus the peer review process and public consultation should be genuine. All results should be clearly presented back to the project in a comprehensible format and language, including sharing outcomes of research with project operators and TOs and project operators acknowledged or co-authors in publications. Adopt and use ‘both-ways’ methodology and approaches, which includes mixing scientific and cultural knowledge and practices, having aligned goals, and looking for the same outcomes (includes things like employing TOs/or researchers as technical support and providing training during the research project) Options for external development of the methods and critical peer review of the method. Encourages people to be motivated to work on the project, rather than being kept out of the process.

Session 4: Monitoring and Evaluation

Facilitated by Jennifer Ansell

Savanna burning projects can show demonstrable greenhouse gas abatement, however, the production of carbon credits is not necessarily an indicator of good fire management. Presenters in this session outlined current scientific understanding of the effects of fire in the landscape and on biodiversity and ecological indicators of best practice fire management. Many Aboriginal ranger groups engaged in savanna burning projects are also developing innovative monitoring frameworks incorporating social, cultural and environmental indicators to evaluate the success of their fire management programs. The five presentations in this session discussed some of the exciting monitoring and evaluation initiatives that are happening in northern Australia across a range of land tenures in regard to fire management projects.

  • Wunambal Gaambera Right Way Fire – Tom Vigilante & Leonie Cheinmora
  • Biodiversity in a fire-prone landscape, what we’ve learned from 14 years in the Kimberley. James Smith Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).
  • Monitoring, Evaluation and Research in the Warddeken IPA. Shaun Ansell Warddeken Land Management LTD.
  • Bureaucrats, burning and biodiversity: keeping monitoring and evaluation at the forefront of savanna burning. Ben Corey WA Parks & Wildlife Service. Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).
  • Savanna Monitoring & Evaluation Reporting Framework (SMERF) Andrew Edwards Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research (DCBR) CDU

Presentation Summaries

Wunambal Gaambera presented on the development of their Healthy Country Plan using Conservation Active Planning (CAP) methods and illustrated key points using their ‘Right Way fire’ target. Wunambal Gaambera has developed a monitoring and evaluation committee to oversee the work being undertaken in the plan and to make sure regular monitoring and evaluation occurs.

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy presented results from their fire research looking at whether prescribed burning benefits wildlife. They presented a range of data for small mammals and birds in relation to changing the seasonality of fire regimes and also the effects of interaction with cattle grazing and cat predation. Their research demonstrates that the distribution of different age stands of vegetation and the protection of riparian areas, rainforest pockets and fruiting trees is important for the species they were studying.

Warddeken Land Management presented on the immense changes to fire regimes that have occurred in the time since the WALFA project started. The Warddeken Healthy Country Plan identifies that ‘Manwurrk’, or bushfire, is key to the management of many other assets in their plan, including monsoon rainforests, sandstone heath environments, and plants and animals. Warddeken have recently started an ecological monitoring project to be able to understand whether the observed changes in fire regimes are actually having an impact on the biodiversity of the Warddeken IPA.

WA Parks & Wildlife presented on their fire monitoring results from the Kimberley. Their results demonstrate that small mammals do not like frequent late fires but prefer patchy landscapes. In fact, mammal diversity at their sites was highest when unburnt for 3 – 5 years. However, they also stressed that not all animals respond the same way to fire regimes and the best approach is to maintain a heterogeneous landscape in relation to fire with different habitat values across large landscape scales. Monitoring is critical to understanding biodiversity responses to burning and showing positive or negative outcomes.


Panel Discussion summary – Whose job is it to monitor?

There is a lot of savanna fire-related research, and it is not all well communicated. The public can easily be misinformed, leading to a lot of misconceptions. The science being discussed in this Forum should be published and made available to the media. Some of the ideas raised included: Tourism poster/flier with tourism NT, including:

  • Simple presentations
  • Maps that clearly illustrate the outcomes
  • Reference good media articles.

Australian Broadcasting Commission [ABC] science – science papers can’t be reported so need to:

  • Simplify the message
  • Target one key element
  • Contact the media.

The key question with regard to monitoring and evaluation raised during the discussion was: What is the monitoring to be used for, is it for a funding body and then does it inform further work? The responses included the following comments:

  • Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Parks agencies monitor because it’s their charter, it can be either ‘in house’ and/or external and includes a single feed-back loop to inform management practice.
  • One audience for monitoring results are the land managers, and the Boards of land management companies and they want to know:
    • Whether the country is healthy?
    • Are outstation communities growing?
    • Trends in population, employment and other support services
    • Livelihoods – how and what is measured?
  • A keyword is ‘pride’, the pride of rangers and TOs looking after country. While Carbon Farming is a ‘new game’ for Aboriginal groups, it is old knowledge –the fire was lit for purpose, for survival’ (Dean Yibarbuk, Kabulwarnamyo, NT).


The Monitoring and Evaluation breakout session question required participants to indicate what the most important messages are that you would like to communicate regarding the outcomes of your work?

Co-benefits create a set of positive social and cultural consequences

  • The proper use of fire is a linchpin for so many other outcomes, and the work we are doing is having a positive impact [social, cultural, environmental and economic] and needs to continue. Getting the story balanced and focused back on TOs looking after country rather than science, carbon and money.
  • A big co-benefit is the pride that people feel in doing the work and making the country healthy. Fire projects are not relating to just a dollar figure, they are good for the country, good for people and increasing cultural awareness and importance of sacred sites and country to outsiders.
  • Improved fire management, with an emphasis on early dry season burning to reduce wildfire, occurring within the savanna burning projects has demonstrated benefits to biodiversity and employment.
  • Measuring social outcomes associated with carbon burning projects, like proper employment as a result of the fire projects. Improvements in social outcomes support the wellbeing not only of Indigenous participants and their dependents.

 Authority of cultural knowledge

  • Cultural knowledge is strong and should be respected across all levels from TOs, researchers, mining companies and governments. Communicating the cultural knowledge transfer that occurs from this work is important, as is giving a clear message to go ‘outside’ about the benefits generated, and the positive social and individual changes that are happening by being involved in burning projects. The respect afforded to cultural knowledge has led to a better understanding of fine-scale fire management.

The fire and carbon industry has national relevance and application

  • There is a perceived divide between northern and southern Australia – the south needs to know what is happening here with regard to fire, and linking the northern fire and carbon story to Indigenous land management in the south of the Australian continent. Arguably this could contribute to the creation of a positive industry persona so that more funding bodies want to contribute to the industry.
Session 5: Tools and Training

Facilitated by Peter Jacklyn and Rohan Fisher

The Tools and Training theme explored the main training and career path needs of the fire and carbon industry, and how the content might be developed and delivered. It also looked at what digital tools are needed and how they could be developed and funded.

The savanna burning carbon projects across north Australia now lies within a young industry set for significant growth, yet they are limited by a lack of training resources and programs. Very few training courses are available for on-ground fire managers, coordinators and project managers that feature the appropriate content for what is an innovative, emerging industry. Nor are there broader programs around skill development and training structures that can provide career paths for people involved in these projects.

Appropriate training and skills development would not only improve the running of projects, but it would also allow people with valuable local knowledge and experience to pursue careers within this new industry so they can have a greater influence on what is taking place on their country. Another important aspect of building capacity for the fire and carbon industry is the digital tools available for fire management. Many projects are starting to move beyond the data and tools currently provided by NAFI and they need, for example, higher resolution fire scars and new reporting tools.

Five short presentations were given on tools and training initiatives including an introduction and NAFI update by Peter Jacklyn [DCBR]. He was followed by talks about:

  • Climate outlook and Fire weather tools. [Greg Browning and Chris Kent Bureau of Meteorology BOM]
  • Ranger and traditional owner, Aboriginal Carbon Farming training. Rowen outlined the Aboriginal Carbon Farming course that has been developed to support project development. The work focuses on the information required for a carbon project, assessing social, cultural and environmental core benefits (including video techniques and app.) and Identify carbon farming markets
  • Emerging tools for fire management. [Rohan Fisher CDU/DCBR] Rohan outlined new tools being developed for fire management including the use of drones to monitor active fires (Djelk), the development of strategic burning tracking apps (Xavier Espanau – Northern Land Council), 3D fire simulation modelling (Rohan Fisher) and the provision of high-resolution satellite-derived burnt area mapping (Steve Murphy – Adaptive NRM)
  • Lessons from west Arnhem Land. [Shaun Ansell Warddeken Land Management] outlined more broadly the journey of skill development in west Arnhem Land.

The talks focussed on training & skills program – existing initiatives, what is needed [gaps], and future actions. Digital tools: what we have already, what is needed, future actions, climate & outlook. 

Panel Discussion Summary

“Can understand carbon and what I can do for my people. Carbon is the start; it is the future for young ones, not only going back to the country but also education.” [Rosie, Cape York QLD]

Tools need to be simple and robust to use. Need to learn on the job and this can’t be replaced with courses and external assessment. The WALFA lessons are adaption for success, constant learning; commitment to education and wildfire suppression; trusting the knowledge of fire and country from people who live and work there. It’s not all about reading BOM website and NAFI or knowing curing levels rather it’s about also trusting local knowledge. Knowledge of country, fire and weather in the region is the basic tool for strategic burning. Use of high-tech tools such as satellite imagery and drones help practitioners get information to identify high-risk areas.


The first Tools and Training breakout session question sought to understand what are the priority digital tools the industry needs and how can they be funded?

Mapping Tools

The Forum’s strong response was that NAFI currently is a priority, the primary digital tool used by fire and carbon industry practitioners. The Forum participants were adamant in their responses that NAFI needs long-term funding. This is an issue that Peter Jacklyn (NAFI Manager) addressed in his introductory presentation where he described the current interim funding arrangement through the Department of the Environment and Energy through to mid-2020. This two-year period will be used to develop the business case to ensure longer-term funding after 2020.

Also discussed was the need for burnt area mapping with better spatial and temporal resolution to assist fire managers with their mitigation burn strategies. This is a service that Steve Murphy from Adaptive NRM is offering, however, there was some discussion as to how this service might be funded into the future. There was also interest in the Easy Tracker app from Xavier Espanau of the Northern Land Council that allows smartphone GPS tracking of fire lines offline.

A common theme was the need for further training in using available spatial data tools.

Weather Communication Tools

Communications for remote areas are essential for coordinating fire activities; better mobile phone and internet services in remote areas would help, as would access to integrated rain radar and fire scar/ hotspots mapping in real-time. Better forecasting of weather and fire weather for remote areas would help with helicopter hire and due care/diligence for neighbours.


The second Tools and Training breakout session question asked: What are the priority training needs of the industry?

The responses indicated a need for training and support across a range of disciplines ranging from basic computer literacy; to sustainable governance models to manage and operate a fire project; through to training in basic spatial technologies such as using Geographic Information Systems for ranger work. The need for training and support extended to the use of Indigenous knowledge tools like seasonal calendars to help teach younger generations about fire management and healthy country.

Basic computer literacy includes training in NAFI for on-ground rangers to use. NAFI is great but not all people understand how to use it or what it can do so training people is important., Better knowledge of the country through training from TOs to teach the next generations. Cross-cultural training helps participants without the knowledge to learn about the respectful protocols for the managing country, and for Aboriginal people to learn about digital tools and science and law. Without the proper knowledge of the country, bad things can happen.

Training is also needed for Indigenous practitioners and TOs to understand the carbon business, as well as training packages that educate the market (carbon buyers and traders), politicians, general public and media about Indigenous carbon projects. Integrated training is needed, that simultaneously supports compliance and liability issues; as well as building capacity and supporting best practice.

Session 6: Industry Development

Facilitated by Jennifer Ansell

This session had a broad range of presenters and looked at the Federal carbon policy space, emerging initiatives at the State level, engagement of Indigenous projects with the Industry, an example of corporate Australia’s engagement with Aboriginal carbon projects and new initiatives to develop a benefits framework.

  • Opportunities within the broader policy context. [Rachel Burgess, Department of Environment & Energy, Australian Government]
  • Indigenous fire projects and participation in the Savanna Burning Industry. [Jennifer Ansell, ALFA and Rhys Swain, KLC]
  • Carbon farming – a new economic industry: Queensland’s Vision. [Megan Surawski, QLD Department of Environment and Science]
  • The Indigenous-to-Indigenous Standard. [Lisa McMurray, Aboriginal Carbon Fund, QLD]

Presentation Summary

Rachel Burgess presented on current climate change policies, the recent review of climate change policies, the development of the Carbon Market Institute Industry road map and announced that the Department of the Environment and Energy would be co-funding the start-up of the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network with Queensland and the Northern Territory governments. Climate change policies are aimed at effectively achieving the 2030 target and Paris Agreement commitments. The ERF remains at the core of the Government’s climate policy and they will continue to look at opportunities to improve the operation of the ERF.

Jennifer and Rhys gave an overview of Indigenous participation in savanna burning projects and gave examples from the Kimberley and Arnhem Land. Indigenous knowledge was the foundation for the development of the savanna burning methodology and uptake within the Indigenous estate has been significant. Of all the Australian carbon credit units produced under the savanna burning methodology over 70% have been produced by Indigenous projects. There are new opportunities and challenges for Indigenous projects as the industry develops further, including engagement with sequestration methodologies, valuing and marketing co-benefits and the development of the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network.

Megan from the QLD Government presented on their initiatives in the climate policy space. The QLD Government have set themselves ambitious emissions reduction targets and they also want to develop engagement with the carbon industry within their state. In particular, they see the economic value to the Queensland economy through early adoption and development of projects.

Lisa McMurray from Aboriginal Carbon Fund presented on the development of the Indigenous-to-Indigenous standard as a framework for monitoring environmental, social and cultural core benefits.

The last presenter in the session Patrick Hastwell from ConocoPhillips presented on building successful partnerships with Industry from a corporate perspective. Patrick summarised some of the key success factors in the WALFA partnership and identified challenges for the carbon industry ahead.

The Industry Development breakout session asked: What are the emerging opportunities for the industry?

Opportunities as a consequence of achieving quantifiable co-benefits

The predominant responses were about the creation of secondary or spin-off businesses given that carbon farming is primary production. These included payments for ecosystem services [particularly fire contract management]. Training to be delivered by TOs and other field experts on the country where fire projects are planned.

Pyro-tourism and ecotourism were also suggested; possibly seeking to capitalise on the benefits from the preservation of bush tucker and medicine through improved fire management. Conversely, opportunities may lie in developing cultural metrics that can be adopted for an industry-wide standard incorporated into things like monitoring and evaluation methodologies.

Selling co-benefits at a better price on the voluntary market. Co-benefits are a mix of social and environmental benefits that add value to carbon credits and may be in demand by socially responsible corporate markets. Standardised, quantifiable metrics will be required at some point in the market.

Potential for Fee for Service in support enterprises; getting more people on-ground to do the firework.

Capitalise on Experience as Carbon Industry Practitioners

Extend technical and organizational capacity and skills to Blue Carbon, Sequestration, and extending carbon methodologies into central Australian landscapes. Opportunities may open up to market and export Indigenous knowledge on fire and traditional burning methodologies nationally and internationally.

Potential energy industry investment in north Australia may open up new carbon credit markets, and also environmental services contracts. An increase in the industry’s value will potentially offer more opportunities for training of rangers, and general capacity building.

Networks and Capacity Development

Developing more networks within the savanna burning projects, will lead to stronger relationships, and increase the ability of all practitioners to be able to share knowledge and capacity.

Creating a premium niche market for the outputs (including co-benefits) of Indigenous-led savanna firework. Using carbon credit income to invest in other land and sea management industries.

Aggregation and collaborating across properties and achieving Indigenous rights to carbon on shared native title areas.

Policy, Public Relations and Awareness

To increase understanding about Fire and Carbon within relevant Government departments, and to generally improve opportunities for communicating the fire and carbon message more broadly.

Demonstrating national and international leadership with regards to Indigenous-led landscape-scale fire management. Parks and Wildlife agencies may be interested in being more involved in or promoting start-up of carbon projects.

There is currently a good opportunity for the Industry to contribute to the formulation of carbon policy frameworks to support valuing and recognising benefits, and contributing to developing industry-wide core-benefits standards and a working group.

Final Session: Workshop Summary & Future Forums

Facilitated by Paul Josif

Discussions with a panel of session coordinators focused on critical issues or initiatives for the future of the Carbon industry. A number of key questions were asked of the Forum, and the responses were mainly elicited through the breakout sessions.

There was discussion around the need for a representative industry body to support and lobby for industry needs. This has already been happening within the Indigenous sector with the formation of a currently informal and soon to be formalised ‘Indigenous Carbon Industry Network’.

A number of roles were suggested:

  • To formulate industry and Indigenous Carbon Industry Network criteria for consistency in reporting and practices across jurisdictions and to promote data sharing.
  • Supporting Indigenous knowledge and practices throughout the industry to leverage the strengths of Indigenous rangers and communities.
  • Advocacy, public relations and media to facilitate public-private partnerships.
  • Develop public relations and media promotions through the formulation of a communications strategy that:
    • Understands that communication within the industry is important.
    • Promotes the ‘right way’ burning story to educate the rest of Australia.
    • Develop ‘fact sheets’ that summarise the key outcomes of savanna burning.
  • Advocacy for clear and strong policy frameworks.
  • Ensuring that industry concerns are integrated into new methodologies.
  • Provide access to guidance to help groups assess the potential to engage in new methodologies.
  • Advocating a standardised system for recognition of co-benefits used to attract credit premiums, such as Blockchain ledger technology applied to ACCUs to allow tracking of the provenance of credits.
  • Start-up information or roadmap for new projects.
  • Support a coordinated approach to meeting technological needs and training.
  • Ensure Indigenous intellectual property is protected.
  • Support and advice regarding good transparent and accountable governance.

Strong interest around the establishment of a broader ‘Fire and Carbon Industry’ peak body to represent the collective Industry practitioners and provide support. We are stronger as a collective. A unified savanna carbon industry would be positioned to pressure governments and polluting industries to both support and commercially engage with the emergent fire and carbon industry. It was suggested that the industry needs a person to fill the role of a champion or patron.

Strong support for hosting a future Forum. The feedback from participants indicated suggestions that further sessions be run, and that hearing from other groups and scientists was of immense value. A second Forum could provide the opportunity to continue the discussion that seeks cross-jurisdictional legislative and policy harmony.


There was some general feedback through discussions; only 20% of formal feedback was received through forms from attendees.

All those that provided some feedback said they would attend again.

The opinion regarding different aspects of the forum: content, venue, timing; varied but were mostly rated as above average. Although the timing was considered ideal during the wet, the least busy time for fire managers, it is also the most difficult for some people to travel.

Two days was agreed as a suitable length for the forum.

The possibility of charging a fee was asked because funding such events is not always easy, and people indicated they would be happy to pay a fee between $100-$200.

Session feedback varied with suggestions for changes at a second forum to have some deeper discussion on some topics and parallel sessions covering different components.

The use of facilitation software ‘group map’ was well received but it was suggested some improvement could be made in how the software managed idea preferences.