Directly following and complementing NCC’s 2023 Bushfire Conference, Managing Fire Together: Applying science, skills, and stories, NCC’s Bushfire Program presented a field day on Friday 26th May at Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden, St Ives, continuing the preceding conference’s theme of managing bushfire together. 79 delegates participated in the field day, representing 39 organisations.
The day included:
- A field day opening by Dr Evelyn Chia (NCC Bushfire Program Coordinator), and a presentation from Zoe D’Arcy (RMIT University), informing delegates on the findings of her research examining fire adapted communities, including what a fire adapted community looks like and the factors that may prompt a community to make these changes.
- An expert panel discussion and audience Q+A on how fire adapted communities are beneficial for both people and the environment, consisting of Prof Alan York (University of Melbourne), Zoe D’Arcy (RMIT University) and Dr Grahame Douglas (Western Sydney University, National Parks Association of NSW). The session was chaired by Bob Conroy (NCC Bush Fire Advisory Committee Chair).
- An address and welcome by Mayor of Ku-ring-gai Council, Cr. Jeff Pettett, followed by a large showcase of the council’s firefighting equipment and machinery.
- Delegates split into two group and were accompanied by NCC Bushfire Program’s Lucy Tremain in the “Red Crowned Toadlets” group and Evelyn Chia in the “Eastern Pygmy Possum” group.
- A presentation by Donna Pettigrew from Sydney North Public Health Network on the public health implications of and responses to local bushfire events.
- An introduction to Ku-ring-gai Council’s Climate Wise Communities initiative, which is designed as an accessible online system that allows residents to assess vulnerability and prepare for bushfire. This was in addition to a live demonstration of Ku-ring-gai Council’s Simtable (which we have written an article on previously, here), which involved the simulating of live bushfire events, both historical and hypothetical, overlayed onto the local area. Participants were eager to get involved, using their hands to move finely crushed walnut shells into piles, simulating topographical variation, and demonstrating how a “hands-on” approach can be an effective way to engage communities and learn. These demonstrations were facilitated by Ku-ring-gai Council staff Dr Jenny Scott and James Chan, and local NSW RFS Ku-ring-gai Bushfire Brigade volunteer Sam Tucker.
- A guided bushwalk facilitated by Bob Conroy (NCC BFAC Chair) and Ku-ring-gai Council’s Bushfire Technical Officer Mark Schuster, which illustrated a variety of facets of fire management in the area. These included threatened species protections (for species such as as the Red-Crowned Toadlet, Rosenberg’s Goanna and Eastern Pygmy Possum), hazard reduction burns, ecological burns, and more. The walk highlighted the strengths of collaborative bushfire management, featuring insights from stakeholder organisation representatives Rodney Clark (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service), Wendy Grimm (Australian Plants Society), and Andrew Sturgess (RedEye), in addition to the sharing of a wealth of knowledge held by field day participants.
Delegate feedback from the field day was overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of respondents surveyed agreeing that the workshop was relevant and covered important topics, and that it was well organised and facilitated. 97% of surveyed respondents agreed that the workshop fulfilled their expectations. Respondents were particularly positive in their feedback regarding the Simtable demonstration and the facilitated ability to network and share knowledge across different organisations. Surveyed delegates described the day as “informative”, “well prepared and delivered”, and repeatedly commented on the value of learning from a diverse set of experts, especially those intimately familiar with local fire management, throughout the day.
Overall, the field day strongly complemented the conference in facilitating the coming together of numerous stakeholders in the bushfire management space, including government representatives, private consultancies, local councils, academics, and many more. This allowed for valuable networking and knowledge-sharing, and fostered increased cross-institutional understandings of the different on-ground practices utilised by different organisations in order to manage fire sustainably and promote the emergence of fire adapted communities.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all presenters, facilitators and staff involved in the delivery of the field day, allowing the day to be as successful, informative and enjoyable as it was. In particular, Mark Schuster was instrumental to many aspects of field day activity planning and delivery, and without his efforts, the field day would have not been the success that it was. Thank you for your work, Mark!
This field day was organised to complement to the NCC Bushfire Conference 2023, which took place on the 24th – 25th May 2023. You can read more about the conference here.
To learn more about the Bushfire Program (led by Evelyn Chia and Lucy Tremain) and the work that they do, head to: www.nature.org.au/bushfire_program