When country needs burning, timing is everything, and the grasses, by how cool or warm they feel, tell you exactly when to light up. Victor Steffensen is a master of timing. His book about Indigenous fire management came out just weeks after Australia’s unprecedented fires inspired calls for more Indigenous burning to quell the danger.
Over most of Australia, Indigenous expertise was lost generations ago when Aboriginal people were forced from their lands. This puts Steffensen in a special situation. He grew up in the northern Queensland rainforest town of Kuranda, with European forebears as well as an Indigenous grandmother who died when he was five. As a restless teenager and university drop-out, he went on a fishing trip to the small town of Laura on Cape York Peninsula, and soon found himself working for the local Aboriginal corporation and lodging in the house of Tommy George (TG), one of two elderly brothers who would shape his life.