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NSW RFS needs more indigenous recruits

Burra McHughes at home on the Barwon River at Brewarrina. Photo TWH

The NSW Rural Fire Service has launched a recruitment drive for the Indigenous Mitigation Team.

One of the faces of the recruitment campaign is Chris ‘Burra’ McHughes, who was one of the founding members of the first Indigenous Mitigation crew in Brewarrina.

Burra is a Ngemba Gamilaraay man who is dedicated to his Aboriginal heritage, and his community, keeping alive the traditions of his people - including their ancient fire management techniques.

He is no longer a team member at the Brewarrina RFS but in his new role as Aboriginal Projects Officer with the Department of Crown Lands, holds a unique position linking Aboriginal culture and community to fire control methods.

“Crown Lands has a partnership with the NSW RFS and my role is to introduce traditional fire methods into Crown Land management - and bring the community along with me,” he said.

“What I am doing as part of the recruitment drive is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to consider applying for a role in the mitigation teams.

“You don’t need any skills - the RFS trains you and teaches you the basics of the course, and when you complete the training you have a permanent position, a fortnightly income and you can gain other skills such as a truck driving license, operating chainsaws and brushcutters, and skills that will be valuable in the role and in the future.

“In the three years when I was with the Mitigation Team, I found it a really invaluable experience introducing traditional methods of fire control to the RFS and seeing Aboriginal people having a role in that,” he said.

Burra’s contribution to his community through his work with the RFS led to his nomination as one of four finalists in the 2023 NSW Young Australian of the Year awards.

To apply to train with the Indigenous Mitigation Team, go to and look for the NSW RFS Crews section.

Applications close on June 4.


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