Non-indigenous understandings of Aboriginal fire practices

Sarah McMaster

PhD student in the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH), Faculty of Education and Arts.

Fear, resistance and reverence: non-Indigenous understandings of Aboriginal fire practices in Victoria: 1770-1900.

Aboriginal people have a long history of fire management. This research involves a textual and ethnographic analysis of historical records, focusing on those produced in Victoria during the 1800s. It is building a strong sense of the cultural context that shaped the way Aboriginal fire was conceptualised by non-Indigenous explorers and colonists. Many of these views continue to influence contemporary understandings in fire management regimes.

Sarah’s research will be useful for anyone interested in understanding fire and its management (which is a lot of people, considering the fire-prone nature of many areas). “My research is important because it is highlighting that understandings of fire are culturally constructed, and adaptable, which may be vital to improving collective responses to bushfire risk.”

Sarah chose to study at FedUni because CRCAH provides a professionally and personally rewarding environment for learning, presenting research showcase days, publication opportunities, seminars and social events. She is a strong believer that “taking the chance to immerse yourself in a topic that you are passionate and engaged with is likely to be a decision that will expand your life and bring you much satisfaction.”