Sacred South West sites in fire plans
Bunbury’s Department of Fire and Emergency Service office is paving the way for greater ties between bushfire mitigation and sacred indigenous sites.
In the first position of its kind, the department has hired a South West Aboriginal bushfire mitigation assistant in 22-year-old Chris Narkle.
Mr Narkle will work with the region’s elders and traditional custodians in a bid to help preserve key indigenous sites and improve mitigation efforts.
One of Mr Narkle’s first tasks will be to develop a map of the South West’s sacred and traditional sites in what is set to be a mammoth job with “well over” 200 across the region.
DFES Aboriginal advancement unit manager Trish Wall said the position was born from work and discussions with Wadandi traditional landowners Wayne and Zac Webb and elder Sandra Hill.
“One of the things that Pete (DFES Supt Peter Norman) and I and some of the other team members have talked about is the registered sites and sacred sites that were in danger of not being preserved when there’s slashing or a fire goes through,” she said.
“That’s one of the things that Chris will be privy to through the training of him with Wayne and Zac Webb, so they will give him an understanding of where they are for those maps.
“We think it’s really, really important that flora and fauna are preserved and nurtured, but also retaining those sacred sites that were in, and are in, the South West.”
She said the “proudest moment” in the decision to select Mr Narkle for the position was the fact he had completed a traineeship with DFES.
“He’s grown and developed and won this position out of so many applicants and we’re really proud that he’s in this space now and he’s earnt it,” he said.
Mr Narkle completed a Certificate III in Government and has aspirations to be a firefighter and said his new position would give him better insight into the department.
“It’s exciting, I’ve always wanted to have insight into what DFES does,” Mr Narkle said.
He said the biggest role he was hoping to play was being a link between DFES and the South West’s cultural aspect and to help in “building that bridge”.
Supt Norman said the move was building on initiatives between Bunbury firefighters and the indigenous community, including vehicles with Noongar artwork.
“From that we’ve just moved on and kept trying to progress our interest and relationship with the local community through the whole region,” Supt Norman said.
It is hoped similar positions will be created across the State on the back of the pilot project in Bunbury.
Mr Narkle will also help raise awareness in planning preparedness and mitigation and will be involved in community engagement.
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