Tap indigenous knowledge: ex-fire chief

Gus McCubbing
Former NSW fire chief Greg Mullins says indigenous knowledge of land management should be embraced

Australian firefighters must find ways to embrace indigenous expertise in the future, according to a former NSW fire chief.

Greg Mullins, a former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner, told the National Bushfire and Climate Summit's online audience on Tuesday that Australia burned over the past summer in ways "never seen before".

Mr Mullins said the industry had previously lost opportunities to embrace indigenous cultural burning and land management knowledge.

The former firefighter, who had a 39-year career with Fire and Rescue before retiring in 2017, said the time had now arrived to enact change.

"The technology they've had for tens of thousands of years is that far beyond what we use ... it's unbelievable," Mr Mullins said.

"We need to tap that knowledge and show a bit of respect that's been lacking for 200 years. These people actually know how to manage this land."

He said it was part of his role as a member of the Emergency Leaders for Climate body - comprised of 33 former Australian fire and emergency service leaders - to educate the new generation.

"We've got to go back to basics ... and you will find fire agencies trying to recruit more indigenous people," Mr Mullins said.

Firesticks Alliance CEO and Bundjalung man Oliver Costello told the summit he hoped to build awareness around the role of cultural land management.

"Our ancestors looked after this land for thousands of years through quite extreme changes in climate over long periods of time," Mr Costello said.

"You need to understand the landscape and people's connection to it ... (but) we're seeing a lot of mismanaged land, a lot of pollution and climate impacts, that are driving these extreme conditions."

The bushfire royal commission currently underway is examining actions which could mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, including whether indigenous fire management practices could be utilised.