The future

In the next few years the WALFA Project wants to continue to improve educational outcomes for young people in the local communities near the plateau, by involving them in the fire management work, by making it easier for them to learn from their elders on country and to continue the custodial role for Indigenous ecological knowledge, and by allowing them to work with western researchers and others to give them cross-cultural skills.

WALFA plot

One of the goals of the WALFA project is to help educate young Indigenous people ny making it easier for them to learn from their elders and western scientsists "on country"












The outcomes achieved by the West Arnhem Fire project have potential application across fire-prone tropical Australia, and potentially, other fire-prone tropical regions. Indigenous land management groups, major companies and governments are investigating the feasibility of entering into similar Greenhouse Gas offsets agreements using this approach. Up to five new potential greenhouse gas and biodiversity abatement projects are being planned in the fire-prone savannas of north Australia as shown on the map below. The next project is scheduled to the the Central Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (CALFA).

Future Abatement projects web 

These new project areas should greatly increase the quantity of greenhouse gases that can be abated in northern Australia – and protect cultural and natural values in those areas, some of which, like the West Arnhem Plateau, are globally significant.

At present only methane and nitrous oxide emissions can be counted as net greenhouse emissions, however, there is evidence that the wildfires are also net CO2 emitters and if this is confirmed and international guidelines allow it, the greenhouse gases officially abated by these activities would increase significantly. Emissions abated would also increase if ‘indirect’ greenhouse gases (carbon monoxide, other oxides of nitrogen and non-methane volatile organic compounds) are able to be accounted for. One estimate is that the WALFA project might be assessed as offsetting the equivalent of 1 million tonnes of CO2 in the future.1,2

Furthermore, while the rangers in the WALFA project currently receive around AU$10 a tonne for emissions abatement activities, these later projects should benefit from participation in Emission Trading Systems and receive higher returns, thus generating significant income, jobs and the flow-on social benefits that the WALFA project is already bringing to the local communities.

This important new way that skilled Indigenous fire managers can work with the broader community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect culture and biodiversity on their country, and bring in social and economic benefits to their communities could also be applied to other fire-prone tropical savannas around the world.



1. Cook GD (2008) Fuels, fires and greenhouse gases. In Managing fire regimes in north Australian savannas – ecology, culture, economy (eds J Russell-Smith, PJ Whitehead, P Cooke). CSIRO Publications, Melbourne. (in preparation)

2. Putnis, A., Josif, P., and Woodward, E. (2007) Healthy Country, Healthy People: Supporting Indigenous Engagement in the Sustainable Management of Northern Territory Land and Seas: A Strategic Framework. CSIRO: Darwin, 229 pages