Personal stories, traditional knowledge and science come together to give a voice to our waterways

International River Foundation

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, have we forgotten the devastating impacts of the bushfire season that were felt across the country earlier this year? The International RiverFoundation is bringing this topic back into focus. On the 6th and 7th of July, eleven of the world’s fire ecology and human dimension experts will come together in an on-line forum to discuss bushfire impacts on our waterways and their surrounding communities.

IRF Chairman, Prof. Paul F Greenfield says “Not long ago, the bushfires were front and centre in everyone’s minds. Even if you were not in an area directly impacted, people across the country and the globe were horrified at the images that were seen across the media for the entire Australian summer”.

Across two days, participants will hear from two keynote speakers and nine other experts in their fields. Topics will include traditional burning, infrastructure planning and water quality. Professor Stuart Khan from the University of NSW will speak about the impacts of fire on water catchments and how these sorts of events present long-term risks to drinking water management. Dr Rebecca Flithoft from the from US Forest Service will discuss how understanding of the effects of wildfire is enhanced by considering the natural patterns of wildfire disturbance, and the adaptive mechanisms that may already be present in native species.

Oliver Costello, CEO of the Firesticks Alliance, will talk about traditional burning practices and what can be learnt from thousands of years of fire management in the Australian landscape. Water professional Isobel Davis will share her personal experience with the Currowan bushfire that took her parents’ house and left her and her family on the beach at Batehaven on New Year’s Eve 2019. She will discuss how her perspective of rivers has changed as a result of this crisis.

IRF CEO Dr Eva Abal says that raising community awareness around the plights of our waterways during any sort of shock is important in combatting the effects and aiding recovery of these valuable resources.

“We believe it is the time to have these discussions once again”, said Dr. Abal. “Now, more than ever, we need to document the learnings and stories from the bushfire crisis of 2019/2020 . The International RiverFoundation will synthesise the discussion had during this forum and begin to pull together a document that will create further discussion and drive policy change”

Tickets for the 2 day forum are still available and can be purchased from

/Public Release.