Australian desert ecosystems and the significant cultural values they contain are under increasing threat posed by large-scale hot fires, feral animals, invasive plants and visitor impact. The 10 Deserts Project is a unique and necessary Indigenous-led partnership. It is the largest connected network of protected areas in the world with 173 areas recognised as a part of the National Reserve System and the largest network of Indigenous-managed lands in the world, with a total of 21 Indigenous Protected Areas.
Omni’s aerospace division is currently working with the Indigenous Desert Alliance (IDA) on the 10 Deserts Project to provide an aerial incendiary capability across native title and/or Indigenous Protected Areas of WA and NT.
Fire is a part of much of the desert, particularly the spinifex dominated sandplains in the north and west of the project area. The deserts are currently subjected to an ‘altered’ fire regime, one that has shifted as people have become absent from much of the environment.
A coordinated approach to fire management across all ten deserts means bringing together Indigenous people from many language groups, as well as non-Indigenous Australians, all of whom possess varying knowledge of desert ecosystems, weather patterns and desert-specific approaches to fire management. The project is working to combine traditional ‘right way fire’ practice with contemporary techniques to restore diversity in the landscape and reduce the impact of broad scale, lightening driven fires.*
2022 is the second year Omni has been working with the IDA on this project. In 2021 Omni worked with the project during the conduct of fire management tasks on numerous native title and Indigenous Protected Areas including Karajarri, Nyangumarta Warrarn, Nyinkina Mangala, Ngurrara, Tjurabalan, Ngururrpa, North Tanami, South Tanami and Kiwirrkurra. This comprised of 17 burning flights over these areas for a total burning flight distance of 9,426 km and just over 40 hours of flying. In 2022, the team anticipates conducting twice as many incendiary flight hours including additional sites such as at Lajamanu depicted here.
The 10 Deserts Project is a strong example of how landscape conservation on a grand scale, across multiple land tenures and jurisdictional boundaries is possible, and indeed strengthened, through local ownership and collaboration around a shared vision. The project aims to build the capacity of Indigenous people and organisations to ensure healthy country, healthy people and a strong Indigenous voice for the desert*
“This project has particularly opened my eyes to the practice of aerial prescribed burning using incendiaries. I have had the opportunity to learn about the importance of fire management, the cultural aspects of looking after country and its ecological importance in minimising the risk of damaging wildfires. Omni’s work with the Indigenous Desert Alliance (IDA) has highlighted how effective fixed-wing aerial burning is in covering expansive areas and the ability to reach some of the most remote corners of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It has been a pleasure working with IDA and the various Indigenous ranger groups, Traditional Owners and organisations involved in the 10 Deserts Project.”
See https://10deserts.org/ for more information.