7 January 2020

Kate Galloway argues that increased bushfire risk is an aspect of land degradation that our colonial property law fails to adequately address: “Through both primary production and our metropolises, the land comprising our nation is put to use in a patchwork of ways caught within a variety of legal constructs that segregate one portion from the next. They separate the soil from its vegetation and minerals, the water from the land, and the animals from their habitat. And humans act as lord over this domain in the belief that their human-derived rights amount to control over nature. The fires though, know no boundaries. … Our GDP might look OK, but what is the point when our land is dying and our lives are at risk. In the aftermath of the fires, it is therefore not enough to replace what has been destroyed. In the face of likely increases in the frequency and ferocity of fire seasons, the rebuilding effort must engage with a new way of comprehending our land beyond discrete, bounded parcels. And we must reconfigure our own relationship with land as other than one of dominion. This requires us to unravel the legacy of colonial land laws and to adopt a more mature standpoint as environmental stewards at the very least, or more ambitiously, a standpoint that centres the environment itself.”