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Northern Territory Bushfires

If you're doing a road-trip through the Northern Territory, especially during the winter months, you can expect to drive in and around bushfires.

According to the Northern Territory website (http://s.mwurl.com/OzI9er):

Studies indicate that fire is a natural phenomenon and predates Aboriginal occupancy of the Australian continent.

The frequency, extent and effect of fire in the past must be subject to some conjecture but all bushfires are dependent on the availability of flammable fuel and an ignition source.

Aborigines burned the country for many reasons. These included hunting, communication, horticulture, ease of travel and for ceremonies. The effect was a system of opportunistic burning techniques which controlled the buildup of fuel, thereby reducing the incidence of large, intense fires. Their activities resulted in a mosaic of growth in terms of stages and types of vegetation development, which provided a range of food sources and habitats both for themselves and for the animals they hunted.

The net result of traditional burning practices was a greater frequency of fires which left a mosaic of different post-fire states. The amount of fuel available to carry fires was broken up into patches and, in occupied areas fires could be contained.

European colonisation and settlement, which started in earnest in the 1870’s had a profound effect on the habits of the Aboriginal population.

Many were moved from their traditional lands or shifted to centralised communities and the management of the land changed, with livestock exercising an increasing influence on burning patterns throughout the Territory.

In some areas, pastoralists burnt to obtain green pick for their cattle and to assist in mustering. As many of the stockmen were Aboriginal, burning for pastoral purposes often represented a modification and simplification of traditional burning practices. Introduction of domestic and feral stock has had an effect on fire regimes in arid zones.

Extensive wildfires occurred throughout the Territory in the 1920s, 50s and mid 70s; lightning strikes, particularly associated with seasonal change in the arid regions, are believed to have been responsible for a number of these. In later years, a range of measures including preventive burning, have diminished the recurrence of such widespread fires and restricted the amount of damage.