A cool, gentle, creeping fire came to the bushland that surrounds the Tang Tang and Thunder swamps in central Victoria, north of Bendigo, in 2019. It burnt gently through grasslands and connected up with other fires lit on the forest floor to create a mosaic effect.
This fire was lit by Dja Dja Wurrung people, including employees of Forest Fire Management Victoria, and their non-Aboriginal colleagues. It was the first cultural burn in the area in 170 years.
It was a momentous day, says Trent Nelson, the chairperson of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. In the years since cultural burning had been used, the landscape had become degraded and "sick". The region, which includes the towns of Daylesford, Bendigo and Boort, used to be cloaked in box-ironbark forests and woodlands but is now one of the most profoundly altered landscapes in Victoria, where agriculture, urban settlement and mining have left ecosystems fragmented.