Yegge and Aboriginal Fire Management in Kakadu

Yegge has arrived!

The dry season is here with its cool mornings and blue skies! Nighttime temperatures have been dropping as low as 22 deg Celsius for over a week now.

The other morning I was driving through the South Alligator floodplain, right on sunrise. The sun was coming up right behind me, the mist was hovering just above the grass where the Magpie geese are nesting at the moment — the colours were absolutely magical!

What a shame I didn’t bring my camera!


Overlooking the Nardab Floodplain

I didn’t leave home without my camera yesterday afternoon though, when I took visitors up to Ubirr, I just knew we were in for one of those glorious Yegge sunsets!

Yegge is the time of year we associate with deliberately lit grass fires and smoke haze giving a sunset over the Nardab floodplain that special touch.
No need to call the firies, it’s all under control!

Bininj people were taught by their ancestors how to cleanse the country by using fire, which over time has created a landscape of unmatched diversity. Species resistant to these low-intensity burn-offs have evolved over the millennia and survive early dry season fires unharmed.

Although fires may be lit late in the dry season when Bininj go hunting in the floodplains, most of the fires are lit earlier in the year, starting in Yegge. During April, May and into June the soil is still moist and the humidity is dropping only slowly after the wet season.
While the speargrass has already started to die off, most of the woodland vegetation is still lush, fires that are lit in the afternoon go out overnight. Yes, some of the smaller trees might lose their foliage — but they will recover and show off new green within a few weeks.

The early morning dew of Yegge delivers enough moisture for seeds to germinate and saplings to grow in those freshly burnt areas.
Wallabies and other animals flock to these places — easy game for the experienced hunter!

There are many reasons for lighting bushfires in Kakadu. Bininj and park rangers carry on with the ancient technique of mosaic burning, which was traditionally used to flush out animals for hunting, to make hiking easier and to “cleanse the country“, rid the woodlands off dead timber and plant matter that could potentially fuel hot and disastrous bushfires towards the end of the year, after a long and hot dry season.

Fires are a part of Kakadu’s “cultural landscape”. There’s a lot more to be said about Aboriginal fire management in Kakadu — and it’s always a topic on our dry season tours, you guessed it!


Looking After Country



  1. Blogging and Kakadu - April 13, 2009

    […] Two other posts talk about the Aboriginal seasons of Kakadu in a really informative way. Her most recent talks about Yegge and Aboriginal fire management. […]