Ancient cultural burning techniques are being passed down to farmers and firefighters, who are drawing upon 60,000 years of Aboriginal knowledge on bushfire mitigation.
This week three Aboriginal roles were added to the NSW government's bushfire committee, which is attempting to incorporate more Aboriginal land management techniques across the state.
Ahead of the curve is volunteer firefighter and Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler, who has been teaching about cultural burning techniques to farmers, firefighters, and even schoolchildren around the Riverina.
Mr Saddler said cultural burns were a safer, more sustainable approach compared to the modern hazard reduction techniques such as kerosene backburning.
"Fire is a friend, a "mudyi", but you need to respect fire as a friend and not just as a tool," Mr Saddler said.
"We have done this for 60,000 years, but only in the last couple of hundred our culture fire practices have been stopped by people who don't understand the land."
In other news:
The 2020 bushfire inquiry found that many of the modern approaches to hazard reduction burning had proved lacking during this year's fires, saying it "challenged conventional assumptions" about their efficacy.
Mr Saddler said many of those contemporary backburning methods had also proved harsh on the land and its ecosystem, making it hard for native vegetation and habitats to grow back.
"It's the mentality of burn it hot, burn it once, and get out of the place when we've done our job. What they're trying to do is save resources and save money, but they're losing lives and losing country," Mr Saddler said.
"We've lost lots of houses and people, which is devastating to our country, and we don't know the cost of the animals we've lost as well as the trees and cultural items of Aboriginal people."
Riverina Local Land Services aboriginal communities officer Greg Packer said traditional "cold" burning was gaining in popularity among farmers and landholders, who found it to be gentler on the ecosystem.
He said it was a slower, more methodical approach, but one that allowed native seeds to sprout back up again and was more sustainable in the long term.
The Riverina land services started training firefighters and farmers about three years ago, and some of them have just started putting those tools into practice.
Mr Packer said these techniques were the way of the future, and that this year's bushfires had highlighted some of the wisdom of the past.
"Put it this way: if they'd practiced cultural burning before the big bushfires there probably wouldn't be as much burnt," Mr Packer said.
"Cultural burning is a good practice and it's a good, cheap way of managing land. A lot of farmers are starting to get on board with it because it's an easy way to kill weed and manage their property."