How indigenous people survive the forest fire crisis

Grows a month after the fires in Colo Heights, New South Wales. The legacy of displacement and racism is fueling the trauma of a forest fire for Australian Aborigines. Credit: Vanessa Cavana, Author provided by

How do you support people forever attached to the landscape after hellish tears in their homeland: extermination of local food sources, burning of ancient scar trees and the destruction of native and totem plants and animals?

The fact is that the experience of indigenous peoples in the fire crisis that swept most of Australia is significantly different from the non-indigenous population.

The colonial legacy of eradication, dispossession, assimilation and racism continues to influence the realities of indigenous peoples. To this should be added the widespread exclusion of our peoples from access to and management of their traditional homelands. These factors make up the trauma of these unprecedented fires.

As Australia collects fragments of these fires, it is more important than ever to understand unique grief Indigenous experience. Only through this understanding can effective strategies be developed to support our communities in recovery.

Eternal grief

Indigenous peoples live with a feeling of eternal grief. This follows from the unresolved issue of the invasion and subsequent colonization of our homeland.

Although there are many cases colonial injury prejudice to indigenous peoples, including the removal of children and the suppression of culture, ceremonies and language, deprivation of the country remains paramount. The distribution of people of their land is hallmark of colonization,

Australian laws were amended to partially return the lands and waters of the Aboriginal people, and the Aborigines did everything possible to promote a more effective governing of the country. But, despite this, most of our peoples were marginalized in the management of our homeland.

Aborigines watched and ignored as homeland uncontrollable and forgotten,

Oliver Costello is Executive Director Firefighters AllianceIndigenous-led network to revive cultural incineration. As he says: “After colonization, many indigenous peoples were expelled from their land, and their methods of cultural fire management were limited by authorities informed by Western views on fire and land management.”

Thus, the colonial settler is not historical, but life experience. And the growing reality changing of the climate adds to these worries.

It is also important to recognize that our people grieve not only about our communities, but also about our inhuman relationships. The cultural identity of indigenous peoples comes from land,

Thus, Aboriginal cultural life and livelihoods continue to be tied to the land, including landscape features such as water holes, valleys and mountains, as well as local animals and plants.

Destruction caused by fires has a profound impact on the existence of indigenous peoples in the most affected areas, threatens Aboriginal groups as separate cultural beings attached to the ground. As Editor of The Guardian for Indigenous Issues, Lorena Allam recently wrote: “Like you, I watched with longing and horror as the fire devastates the precious land of Yuin, taking everything with me – lives, houses, animals, trees – but for people of the first nations it also burns our memories, our sacred places, all things that make us who we are. "

Then, for Aboriginal people who live with the trauma of deprivation and neglect, and now the trauma of catastrophic fire, our grief is immeasurably different from the suffering of the non-indigenous population.

Reforestation must take culture into account

When we come to terms with the destruction of fires, Australia must turn its eyes to restoration. The community recovery area provides valuable information on how groups of people can come together and move forward after disasters.

But the expertise study and commentary in this area shows how poorly non-indigenous Australia (and indeed the international community recovery field) understands the needs of indigenous peoples.

The definition of "community" is not directly considered and, therefore, is considered as a single sociocultural group of people.

But research in Australia and abroad has shown that for Aboriginal people, healing from trauma – historical or modern – is cultural and spiritual process and inherently attached to the earth.

culturally neutral point of view community restoration studies do not yet recognize these differences. Without taking into account the historical, political, and cultural context that continues to shape Aboriginal life, crisis responses may be inadequate and inappropriate.

Resilience in the face of continuing injury

The long-term consequences of colonization mean that Aboriginal communities (for better or worse) are used to living with catastrophic changes in their societies and landsby adjusting and adapting to continue to function.

Experts believe that these sustainability traits are an integral part of community survival and disaster recovery.

Thus, the resilience of Aboriginal communities over the centuries of colonization, combined with adequate support, means that Aboriginal communities in fire-affected areas are well placed to not only recover, but to do so quickly.

This is an important lesson for agencies and other non-governmental organizations entrusted with leading the disaster recovery process.

Community characteristics that ensure effective and timely community recovery, such as close social connections and a shared history, already exist in the affected Aboriginal communities.

Forward movement

agency Responsibility for restoration in areas affected by a forest fire should begin with respect and appropriateness. And they must be equipped with basic knowledge of the various circumstances of our peoples.

It is important to note that this is not a “special treatment”. Instead, he recognizes that policies and practices should be consistent with the goal and at least not take further action. harm,

If agencies and non-governmental organizations responsible for leadership recovery these fires are not well prepared; they risk causing new injuries to Aboriginal communities.

The National Disability Insurance Agency offers an example of how to interact with Aboriginal people in culturally sensitive waysThis includes thinking about the country, culture and community, as well as working with the values ​​and customs of each community to establish respectful, trusting relationships.

new forest fire restoration agency should use a similar strategy. This would recognize both the historical experience of the Aboriginal people and our strengths as communities that not only survived, but remained connected with our native lands.

Thus, it is possible that a forest fire crisis may have some positive long-term results, opening up new doors to collaborate with indigenous peoples, using our strengths and values, and prioritizing our unique interests.

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Strength from eternal grief: how Aborigines survive the forest fire crisis (2020, January 10)
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