Savanna Fire Forum 2019

The 2019 North Australia Savanna Fire Forum has been praised by participants as a great success. As was evident from the two days, one of the key strengths of the industry is the wealth of knowledge and skills it represents, and the collaboration that exists across individuals working in the industry.

The level of interest and diverse audience at the forum demonstrates the huge opportunities on the horizon for this industry and the diverse interests in savanna fire management.

Overview of the program


To provide a place for interested parties from across north Australia to connect and share knowledge about savanna fire management.


The fire forum was hosted by ICIN for the first time (in-kind contribution) with support from Warddeken Land Management Ltd. Further substantial in-kind support was provided by the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research at RIEL/CDU. Also the forum was supported by a Working Group including funders and supporters and funded by Northern Territory Government, Indigenous Land Corporation and the Australian Government (DoEE). Booth sponsors for the events included Gamba Grass Roots and the Centre for Excellence in Prescribed Burning (who also provided summary highlights video).


  • Attendance was also diverse, reflecting a wide range of interests in savanna fire management.
  • Sectors represented included: Scientists, Government officials, Parks managers, Indigenous Land Managers, Carbon Industry, Environmental NGOs, Fossil Fuel Industry, Cattle Industry.
  • There was good attendance across WA, QLD and particularly NT.
  • This significant diversity of representation and knowledge in the room, including strong Indigenous participation, was highlighted by participants as a key strength of the Forum.
SFF 2019 Attendee’s


Sharing Our Story

Facilitated by Ken Baulch, of Bushfires NT

Fire managers from across north Australia shared their knowledge and experiences from 2018/19 fire season, exploring how learnings could be applied in different situations across the north.

  • Over 19 people, 11 different organisations, shared their experiences from the field in the area of fire and carbon operations across northern Australia.
  • Provided extensive insight into the challenges and benefits of good savanna fire management.
  • Clearly demonstrated the extremely high level of expertise within the industry, which, complemented by a strong willingness to share and reflect, is resulting in constant improvements and growth.

Key lessons include:

  • Indigenous fire management generates cultural, economic and environmental benefits and significantly decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It offers an opportunity to reconnect with the homeland and exchange traditional knowledge among generations whilst providing a source of income.
  • Fire managers are not alone; they are supported by a network of collaborations and partnerships.
  • Communication and training are the keys to a successful land management plan.
International & National initiatives

Facilitated by Mitch Hart of PEW Charitable Trust.

Discussing how knowledge is being shared across the north and beyond through the formation of new networks and partnerships. A high-level snapshot of just some of the exciting initiatives occurring within the savanna industry at a national and international scale.

Key lessons include:

  • Northern Australia fire practitioners are leading the world in savanna burning, in terms of Indigenous cultural outcomes as well as carbon industry outcomes.
  • The savanna carbon industry is a strong industry with huge potential for growth.
  • A key enabler for growth within the industry is a strong and supported network of savanna fire operators and ongoing industry collaboration. Opportunities for collaboration, training and learning should be encouraged and facilitated.
  • Indigenous landowners and managers are key stakeholders in the savanna carbon industry and need to be engaged and consulted with accordingly to ensure that policy frameworks are appropriate.
  • Savanna burning practitioners have a strong story to tell. This industry is getting organized to show decision-makers the importance of the industry and how it delivers globally significant social, economic and environmental outcomes.
Sequestration Methodology

Facilitated by Marnie Telfer of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.

Presentations exploring how carbon is stored in the landscape and how the new carbon sequestration methodology can apply to savanna fire management projects. A very detailed and technical look at current and emerging opportunities within the area of savanna sequestration.

Key learnings include:

  • The Savanna Carbon Farming Roadmap is intended to be informed by stakeholder input and address the industry’s future priorities.
  • The Sequestration Method is based on averages. This means that transition timing only impacts the crediting period but does not impact the total credits earned from sequestration. Therefore, there is no need to rush the transition from a sequestration perspective.
  • Transition to the Sequestration Method may not be feasible for all regions or groups. It needs to be a business decision based on the risk and potential return in each individual case.
  • “Standing Dead Wood” is proposed to be added to the Sequestration Method via the Technical Guidance Document, with LiDAR technology able to support the calculations.
  • High-intensity fires appear to impact tree growth, recruitment and survival/mortality (some discussion).
Monitoring and Evaluation

Facilitated by Andrew Edwards of the Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research.

Outlining the latest developments in monitoring and evaluation, including mapping, surveys, measuring co-benefits and reporting. Nine presentations updated participants on various tools, methods and projects underway to improve savanna fire monitoring and evaluation.

Key lessons include:

  • While strong science and methods are crucial underpinnings of the savanna fire industry, ensuring this information is accessible and relevant to people on the ground remains key.
  • Further demonstrated that the Savanna Fire Industry remains committed to continuous improvement and development, with a constant willingness to reflect on lessons learned, and embrace new tools to ensure ongoing improvement.
  • Ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation, utilizing a range of locally appropriate tools, is a key way to achieve this improvement.

A presentation by Otto Bulmaniya Campion, of Arafura Swamp Rangers Aboriginal Corporation, presenting a Bininj perspective on M&E, was widely acknowledged as one of the overall highlights of the Forum. He suggested ways to improve two-way learning and collaboration on culturally relevant monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

New Developments

Facilitated by Ricky Archer of NAILSMA.

Discussing the potential impact of new developments in the savanna fire management and carbon industry, such as new methodologies and training. Discussed new training, standards and developments within the field of savanna burning. Three diverse projects from across the industry were presented:

  • Skills Impact presented on Vocational Training in Carbon Farming. The Australian Government has funded Skills Impact to develop a VET course on Carbon Farming.
  • Aboriginal Carbon Foundation presented on core benefits standards and training. ACF supplies training to landholders and carbon practitioners and is a carbon aggregator. Training focuses on increasing understanding around the entire Savanna Burning methodology, not just the land management outcomes. Work on ‘core benefits’ focuses on assisting Indigenous groups articulate the core benefits of Savanna Burning programs, including good stories, how to measure these benefits, and training regionally-based verifiers to assess them.
  • The 10 Deserts Project provided an overview of the work being undertaken to investigate the potential for carbon and co-benefits in the Australian deserts. The Ten Deserts project is an alliance across central Australia, looking to build capacity, manage key threats, create new markets, and look at co-benefits for Indigenous groups. Carbon is being investigated as a potential opportunity to increase resources to manage and address these changed fire regimes.
Supporting Savanna Fire Management

Facilitated by Polly Grace.

An expert panel discussing the future for savanna fire management and key elements for ensuring success. Q&A style panel discussion focused on the future of the savanna fire management industry.

The panel included:

  • Cissy Gore Birch (Bush Heritage);
  • Ricky Archer (NAILSMA);
  • Megan Surawski (Department of Environment, QLD);
  • Will Durack (Kimberley Land Council);
  • Ken Baulch (Bushfires NT); and
  • Katrina Maguire (Department of the Environment and Energy).

Ricky Archer provided a brief overview of the state of the savanna industry, highlighting key opportunities and challenges.

Key lessons include:

  • Improved public understanding of both climate change and savanna burning leading to improved public awareness and support for the industry.
  • Ensuring that the traditional knowledge at the foundation of the method is not lost or overlooked.
  • Fostering trust between industry and government, and within the industry itself.
  • Investment in and engagement with young people, particularly in light of the intergenerational commitments required under sequestration.
  • Improved information dissemination, meaning information is not just available but is provided in a format that can be accessed and understood by people on the ground.
  • Increased indigenous ownership and leadership, noting again the Indigenous foundation of the savanna industry.
  • Investment in two-way science to strengthen the foundation of the industry.
  • Improve understanding of the benefits associated with savanna burning and investment in tools to better unlock these.
  • Ensuring the ongoing integrity of Australian Carbon Credit Units by ensuring the integrity of the method.
  • Secure and stable ranger funding as the backbone to savanna activities.


The 2019 North Australia Savanna Fire Forum has been praised by participants as a great success. As was evident from the two days, one of the key strengths of the industry is the wealth of knowledge and skills it represents, and the collaboration that exists across individuals working in the industry.

Key lessons include:

  • Whether for on-ground fire operations, desktop research, or project or method development, communication, outreach and engagement across the industry, and to outside stakeholders, is key to ongoing success.
  • One of the key strengths of the industry comes from strong collaboration among stakeholders. Sharing experience to enhance best practice – whether through forums such as this one, or networks such as the ICIN – are invaluable.
  • The savanna fire industry is and must remain, both dynamic and reflective. Access to accurate and accessible information remains important. Using the best available information to constantly reflect and ensure that outcomes remain aligned with goals and purposes is important. There are many existing and emerging tools to help achieve this. Resourcing of these tools is critical.
  • A number of education initiatives are emerging. Ensuring that training and industry development is well-informed and align with practitioner needs will be important going forward.