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Rise in insurance premiums impacts Indigenous rangers’ bushfire prevention work in Western Australia’s Kimberley

Rise in insurance premiums impacts Indigenous rangers’ bushfire prevention work in Western Australia’s Kimberley
February 6, 2021

Australia’s insurance crisis is set to impact bushfire suppression work undertaken by Indigenous ranger groups in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

The Kimberley Land Council, which helps manage this work across a region twice the size of the state of Victoria, says it will have to stop bushfire mitigation on 1st July unless a solution is found to rising insurance costs which have seen premiums set to double in the space of a year.

As reported by the ABC, with the cost of insurance rising dramatically since last summer’s bushfires, with the Land Council has warned insurers face a greater risk if Indigenous rangers stop fire management work.

Warning that the work would stop at the end of June if a solution cannot be found, Kimberley Land Council Land and Sea Unit Manager Will Durack stated “we are still talking about sums of money that are not figures that we can finance

"For local people in the Kimberley, for the broader WA community, and then for the nation, the service that is provided is essential."

Aboriginal rangers manage fire across hundreds of thousands of kilometres of northern Australia, conducting fuel reduction burns shortly after the wet season, and then fighting wildfires later in the dry season.

Advising that said the work came with inherent but manageable risks, for which public liability insurance was essential, Durack told the ABC “if we've got insurance, it won't pose an issue. We will continue to do our jobs, and our job in the dry season is suppression, is putting people into Country to put out fire (but) if we burn something down and we don't have insurance, then we bankrupt the organisation."

Fearing that there could be severe consequences if Indigenous fire management could not continue, he noted “by us putting in fire early in the dry season, you mitigate against that large, uncontrolled fire.

"So, people are at risk. People's lives will be at risk of large ... uncontrolled fires as we've seen in other places."

Durack said larger, and unmanaged fires also increased risks to the environment and the economy of the region, adding “without running an early season program, we will change the landscape. You will burn it too often and too hot.

"A lot of the work we do protects against late-season fire running into pastoral properties, so (there would be) significant economic impact."

Indigenous rangers have increasingly managed bushfire in the Kimberley over the last decade, with Durack said this had demonstrated the benefits of this practice.

He went on to explain “we've seen a significant shift in that time because of putting fire into the landscape early in the year when you don't get these massive, uncontrolled fires that sweep through the landscape.”

Western Australia's Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said in a statement that it would be meeting with the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) to try to find a resolution to the issue.

In a statement it advised "DFES has a long history of working with local Aboriginal ranger groups and recognises the important role they play in mitigating bushfire risk across Western Australia.

"It is hoped that the department can offer the ICA an insight into the importance of having additional providers who can help to reduce the bushfire risk."

Images: Gooniyandi/Ngurrara Rangers conduct fire management combining traditional knowledge and modern bushfire science. (Supplied: Kimberley Land Council).

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20th January 2021 - Aussie Ark receives $850,000 grant to assist bushfire affected wildlife

14th January 2021 - QTIC to survey operators on insurance crisis

13th January 2021 - Guests at Perth attractions forced to flee from bushfire

29th December 2020 - Ombudsman’s report calls for action in addressing ‘national crisis’ in insurance coverage

10th December 2020 - Insurance crisis set to force closures of Australian attractions and adventure tourism businesses

16th November 2020 - Industry operators impacted by rising insurance premiums

4th November 2020 - Ecotourism Australia partners with WWF Australia to support bushfire-affected tourism destinations

13th October 2020 - Nature Valley and Landcare Australia partner to rejuvenate bushfire affected walking trails

6th August 2020 - Bushfires and Coronavirus impact Australian tourism with no imminent respite

12th June 2020 - Insurance refusals impacting adventure tourism operators

12th May 2020 - Bushfire affected wildlife and plants to receive $150 million funding boost 

27th March 2020 - Access restricted to Kimberley and remote Western Australian Aboriginal communities

26th February 2020 - Western Australia bushfire wildlife and habitat recovery receives priority support

19th January 2020 - Federal Government announces $76 million bushfire recovery package

31st December 2018 - Rangers warn of dangers as walkers ignore heat warnings in Northern Territory parks

28th August 2018 - New documentary follows Indigenous Rangers’ journey to Kenya to share knowledge, culture and music with Masai counterparts

30th April 2018 - Federal Government commits $250 million to fund Indigenous rangers program until 2021

2nd April 2017 - Report highlights value of Indigenous Ranger Programs

1st February 2017 - New national park for the north Kimberley

14th October 2016 - Huge Kimberley bushfire threatens key Western Australian wildlife sanctuary

24th September 2015 - Indigenous rangers aid threatened wallaby conservation efforts

22nd July 2015 - New tourist facilities on Kimberley wilderness road

30th May 2014 - Kimberley ultramarathon burns victim earns multi-million dollar settlement

19th April 2013 - Bush Rangers WA celebrates 15 years with Excellence Awards

24th October 2012 - Inquiry blasts organiser of disastrous Kimberley ultramarathon

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