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Development   /  John Harvey

Fire Country

Indigenous fire management could help save Australia


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Jason De Santolo

  • PRODUCER John Harvey



For the past 27 years Indigenous fire practitioner Victor Steffensen has travelled around Australia and the world burning fire and rekindling knowledge back to country. He has written of these experiences in his acclaimed book FIRE COUNTRY. This film is co-written by Victor with a deep cinematic vision to transform and heal Country and people.

With an unprecedented fire season with massive ramifications for communities, Aboriginal fire knowledge has resonated a spark of discussion that calls for change on all levels to help save this country.

In the summer of 2020 the world witnessed Australia burning like never before. Families have tragically lost lives, homes and forests destroyed, millions of animal carcasses lay strewn across burnt hollow landscapes.

The knowledge of country and fire that has held this country for thousands of years by Indigenous expertise has in some places been extinguished by the coloniser when Aboriginal people were forced from their lands.

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Fire has crept into the national psyche as something that must be feared and controlled. In Australia, fire is managed by dozens of agencies including the: rural fire service; national parks; forestry; pastoralist; land owners; and local, state and federal governments. The recent fire laid bare the lack of knowledge and coordination between the agencies.

With families, communities and businesses being decimated in the largest fire since colonisation, Australian’s understandably want answers. But in order to understand the nature of our fires, we must first understand the knowledge of the country that fire burns upon. Aboriginal fire practitioner Victor Steffensen takes us on a deep journey to understand and ‘read’ the country and to approach fire not from a place of fear, but a place of deep respect and knowledge that doesn’t destroy but instead brings life to the land on which we live.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

To generate a movement that shifts the consciousness of how Australians see and relate to country gaining a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of this country that is based on Indigenous cultural knowledge.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Outcomes we are looking at include:
Short term - FIRE COUNTRY will seek to shift people’s consciousness of how they sit and look at this country in which they live, shining a light on Indigenous knowledge and the importance of keeping this knowledge central in any conversations about country and the rebuilding of community post wildfires and post pandemic.

Medium term - build upon the work of Victor Steffensen in working with: Indigenous communities; fire services; government; land owners; forestry and other stakeholders to focus responses stem from the spark of Indigenous fire knowledge and practice.

Long term - support Victor's work in changing policy and procedures on an international level, using Australia as a case study and catalyst for this change.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Victor Steffensen has been instrumental in the establishment of the Fire Sticks Indigenous Alliance.

BROWN CABS has partnered with a number of agencies in the past to screen films. The company’s recent documentary WARBURDAR BUNUNU: WATER SHIELD (directed by Jason De Santolo) developed partnerships with a number of agencies and educational leaders with interest and advocacy on Indigenous issues and land care management. FIRE COUNTRY is another opportunity for BROWN CABS to further extend its relationship with these agencies.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

1. Hosting community screenings - we will encourage community members to host their own screening.

2. Seek financial donations to Fire Sticks Agency to support the important and vital work of the national agency in advocating for Indigenous fire practitioners.

3. Encourage patrolist and landowners to speak to and engage with the local Indigenous community to undertake fire management and burning with the local rural fire service.

4. Encourage any audience members to speak to their elected representatives to ensure that Indigenous people are front and centre in the conversations on fire management going forward.

5. Connect with the project via our website and social media.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We want change. We need change, this country needs change. FIRE COUNTRY indicators for success include:

- anecdotal evidence such as quotes from key stakeholder agencies who because of watching the film have wanted to learn more through getting in touch with Victor, the filmmakers and with the local community to undertake fire management plans.
- theatrical release of the film in all capital cities across Australia along with special event screenings in urban, regional and remote settings.

- Changes in policy and procedures around fire management that is centred on Indigenous Fire Knowledge.
- education kit being adopted by schools and learning institutions.

- interest and response from international communities and stakeholders to undertake Indigenous Fire Workshops and burnings based on Indigenous Fire Knowledge.
- anecdotal evidence of a shift in consciousness when it comes to thinking about country