A carbon market milestone worth cheering

The first Indigenous carbon credits are set to go on market, in a new landmark for the emerging Australian carbon economy.

The call this week by the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) for expressions of interest in the first Indigenous-produced Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) marks a significant milestone for the emerging Australian carbon economy.

The Fish River Fire Project is Australia’s first controlled savanna burning project to be approved under the Carbon Farming Initiative and is expected to produce 25,884 Kyoto compliant ACCUs. Fish River is a 178,000 hectare property located in the Daly River Catchment of the Northern Territory.

The property is currently owned and managed by the ILC and is a culturally significant landscape for the Larbaganyan, Wagiman, Malak Malak and Kamu peoples who are the Traditional Landowners of the property.

About the project

Savanna burning under the Fish River Fire Project is delivering social, cultural, economic and biodiversity benefits while protecting a nationally significant landscape.

Early dry season savanna burning is being conducted on Fish River to reduce greenhouse emissions that would otherwise be generated from late dry season wild fires.

Indigenous Rangers are combining traditional burning knowledge with modern technology to help tackle climate change and generate a new income stream for future land management. Traditional pattern or mosaic burning has been used for thousands of years to protect the country from devastating hot burns. The project marries these traditional burning practices with the latest satellite imagery and mapping technologies.

Each year early season ’cool‘ burns are planned across the property with particular attention given to fence lines and boundaries abutting other properties. This aids in preventing wild fires from adjoining properties entering Fish River and helps ensure its burning program does not impact on its neighbours.

Burning is carried out through a combination of aerial and on-ground methods. Using GPS and mapping, small incendiary devices are strategically dropped from a helicopter-mounted Raindance machine, while in other areas Indigenous Rangers use drip torches to create fire lines and monitor the progress of the pattern burns.

What are the benefits?

Fish River Carbon Credits offer an innovative and unique solution for corporations to meet their carbon liabilities while making a difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians. The benefits can be grouped into six main categories:


The Fish River Fire Project has reduced the area burnt in the late dry season each year from an average of 36 per cent during the baseline (unmanaged) period (2000-2009) to approximately 1 per cent in 2012. The project is expected to continue to deliver around 13,000 tonnes of CO2-e emissions abatement each year, making a positive contribution to the challenge of tackling climate change.


The project delivers training and paid employment for Indigenous Australians on their traditional country. Traditional Owners are involved in planning burning activity on the property and advising on fire and natural resource management activities.


Revenue generated from the sale of Fish River Fire Project generated ACCUs will be used to support ongoing land management activities, Indigenous jobs and training on Fish River.

Socio- cultural

The employment of local Indigenous people, many of whom have familial connection to Fish River, is facilitating access of Traditional Owners to the property, reconnection with cultural values and protection of important cultural sites.


Under a comprehensive Plan of Management, Fish River is managed as an International Union for Conservation of Nature Category II Protected Area. The reduction of late dry season wildfires at the project area site helps protect the many rare and threatened animal and plant species found on the property, such as the Northern Quoll, Gouldian Finch and Masked Owl. Significant ecosystems are located on the property including monsoon forest, large areas of riparian habitat, nationally important wetlands and limestone karst formations.

Assisting the development of other Indigenous fire projects

The ILC is using Fish River as a demonstration to inform the development of other Indigenous fire projects across northern Australia.

Michael O’Ryan is Director of Policy and Program Development at the Indigenous Land Corporation.

The ILC is seeking expressions of interest from entities interested in purchasing the ACCUs from the Fish River Fire Project. Contact: Ms Nerissa Walton, Senior Policy and Environment Advisor, Indigenous Land Corporation on (08) 8100 7100 or email carbon@ilc.gov.au.

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