FIRE WITH FIRE – Capturing the story behind the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project.
Since 2006, Darwin LNG has supported a carbon offset program
known as the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (WALFA). Through this
project, Indigenous rangers in West Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory have offset
more than one million tonnes of C02e
through early dry-season burning. This strategic approach helps to prevent
devastating uncontrolled bushfires later in the year.
In addition to reducing emissions, WALFA has provided over 200 Indigenous jobs per year, conserved
rainforest vegetation, protected
local wildlife and rock art sites and
enabled cultural aspects of land management to be passed down to younger
Participating Indigenous rangers have created a revolution in land management by using
traditional knowledge combined with modern technology. This success of this
method is now seeing it duplicated across Australia and the world.
ConocoPhillips commissioned a documentary to capture the
incredible story behind the WALFA project. You can view ‘Fire with Fire’ here
(15 min) or here
What is WALFA?
Indigenous people have been using fire to manage the
landscape for thousands of years. Their management of otherwise uncontrolled
late dry season fires encourages new growth, helps with hunting and protects
important places and resources.
With a presence in Darwin through its LNG facility,
ConocoPhillips began supporting the WALFA project – an initiative that comprises of 28,282 square
kilometres of West Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory’s Top End, an area
roughly the size of Belgium.
The WALFA project uses an innovative mix
of customary Indigenous fire management techniques and contemporary technology
to manage uncontrolled fires. Offering economic, environmental, social and cultural outcomes for local
Indigenous community members, WALFA enables Traditional Owners and Countrymen
to return to the land by providing sustainable employment opportunities. Each
year, Indigenous ranger groups meet to plan the annual fire management program
and carry out consultation on traditional lands.
Much of the project’s success has come from strategic early
burning work, however rangers have also improved outcomes by fighting late dry
season fires. In challenging terrain, helicopters are utilised to reach burn
sites, with rangers then suppressing fires using back-burning techniques and
"It is hard work to live out here in the bush and look after the country. Fighting bushfires is particularly hard work. But hard work is good, especially good for the young people” Nigel Gellar, Senior Ranger - Warddeken Land Management
As a result of this project, CO2 emissions released through
wildfires are reduced, helping to also protect local wildlife. Since 2006,
WALFA abatement has exceeded 1.1m tonnes of CO2e, and provide employment and fire management training
to more than 200 Traditional Owners and rangers each year.
ConocoPhillips are committed to protecting the environment we share and
are proud to support projects whose vision to uphold high environmental
standards aligns with ours. We understand our
actions today will not only provide the energy needed to drive economic
growth and social wellbeing but also help to secure a stable and healthy
environment for tomorrow. Participation in WALFA continues to provide the
catalyst for socially-beneficial programs that also enhance the local
community’s ability to realise their role in both managing the natural
environment and maintaining cultural ties.
Several organisations are involved in WALFA’s administration
and operations – these include the Northern Land Council, North Australian
Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, Charles Darwin University and the
Northern Territory Government who provide institutional and technical support
through Northern Territory Bushfires. The operational success of WALFA relies
on the important work of the following five ranger groups – Warddeken,
Adjumarllal, Djelk, Mimal and Jawoyn.
In 2014, the WALFA
project was formally recognised as an eligible offset program under the Federal
Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative. In the Federal Government’s 2015
Emissions Reduction Fund abatement auctions, 33 Savannah burning projects from
across Australia were successful in selling contracts for carbon abatement –
all using methodology pioneered by WALFA.
We are proud of the achievements of WALFA in setting an
example for a scientifically sound and genuinely collaborative project.