In a broader sense, better understanding of avian fire-spreading, both in Australia and, potentially, elsewhere, can contribute to theories about the evolution of tropical savannas and the origins of human fire use.
Fire provides the opportunity for pyrophilic behaviour by some birds. Brown Falcons perch at the fire-front waiting for grasshoppers, frogs, snakes, lizards and small mammals. Whistling Kites and particularly Black Kites, Milvus migrans, spectacularly hawk around the curtain of flame, preying on grasshopper, cockroaches and other small fleeing animals. Local Aboriginal people believe that Brown Falcons and Black Kites set fires by carrying burning sticks to new locations and drop them into dry grass on unburnt grounds.
I am wondering out loud whether the Royal Commission should proceed at all. Look at the mess we are in – Coalition and Labor can’t agree on the Commissioner(s), the Commissioner himself now appears in doubt, senior people – black and white – are calling into question whether a Royal Commission is justified and best way forward and indigenous leaders say they weren’t consulted on the terms of reference.
The allegations made against the NLC as to fraudulent and dishonest conduct cannot be substantiated on the evidence, and I reject them utterly. The statements that were made about the NLC, its processes and senior staff can be broadly characterised as scandalous and have no factual basis. The evidence of the applicants’ own witnesses is that the NLC did its job properly and consulted widely with the right groups and obtained the consent of the traditional owners.
The recognition and application of traditional knowledge of birds is increasingly appreciated as a valuable tool for contemporary societies to re-engage with the knowledge of past generations and to provide opportunities to inform modern land and species management for the benefit of species, landscapes and societies. Across the world, local language and cultural groups are recognising the value of ethnoornithology and ethnobiological methodologies, including as tools for inter-generational transfer of knowledge and engaging mainstream land managers with indigenous cultures and societies.
Donations for Andrew McMillan will be allocated to a McMillan Fund in the NT Writers' Centre books. The NT Writers' Centre is a charitable institution with endorsement as a deductible gift recipient. This means that donors may claim a tax deduction if they request a receipt from us. The McMillan Fund will be used to provide suitable accommodation and care for Andrew as he convalesces over the next six months and, hopefully, returns to his writing.