Dark Emu Book – Bruce Pascoe

I’m a little late with acknowledging, but this past week has been National Reconciliation Week, the theme for 2020 being – In this together. The theme was announced last year and little did we know how much that phrase would be used this year for a completely different reason.

Even though the actual week has now passed, it’s never too late to continue learning about indigenous culture whenever opportunities arise. The way forward for me is in education because I believe ignorance is the biggest barrier to understanding so I am happy and open to continuing to learn by reading more about a culture we didn’t hear enough about when I was a student.

Sometimes I think we need to just put aside our preconceptions and what we THINK we know and just…simply…listen. That is the feeling I had when reading an absolutely fascinating book called Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. I must admit I have never questioned what I had learned or been told over the years, and never looked for another perspective. Travel is a great educator and seeking out the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as you travel around Australia is a good way to start. This book has certainly sparked my interest in making sure I become more aware of the indigenous history in areas we in travel to.

So to the book. The author Bruce Pascoe is an Aboriginal Australian and a professor at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education & Research at the University of Technology Sydney. The book challenges what we were all taught, that aboriginal people were hunter gathering nomads living quite primitive lives and instead, gives examples of farming, irrigating, harvesting, storing food, making sophisticated trapping equipment, trading and living in large villages.

What I particularly liked about the book was that the examples and stories recounted came from early explorer’s diaries that told what they actually saw and experienced in different regions of Australia. In Pascoe’s research he found there were quite detailed entries about how aboriginal people managed the land, what they grew and how the land looked quite different to now. It is an eye opening read with specifics of agriculture and aquaculture practices that give us a completely new insight into their lives and society.

Some historians and academics disputed that this was previously unknown information, stating that there is a massive amount of literature and published research on the subject of indigenous fish farming and cultivation and it has been known for decades. To my mind though, that’s not very helpful if it isn’t in a readily available format for the wider population. This book takes pieces from many years of research from historians, archaeologists and scholars and puts them into an interesting and easily understood book, readily available to anyone wanting to learn facts that we may not have known before.

Dark Emu is a book that at the very least gives hope that the future of land management in Australia can learn a few lessons by taking a look into the past for inspiration.

Enjoy the read


6 thoughts on “Dark Emu Book – Bruce Pascoe

  1. It is a great book and it has caused a bit of a shift in thinking. It surprised me when I read it. Try Tyson Yunkaporta’s book Sand Talk that is also a fascinating read and he writes with a sense of humour, sometimes about really complex things that he manages to make very accessible. Now that we are finally listening to our First Nation people we are benefiting from some exciting thinking about the environment.
    And Rio Tinto what the hell were they thinking, well I guess I know what they were thinking and it involved not much beyond dollar signs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you that this is a wonderful, attitude-changing book. I hope it can jolt a large number of people into an awareness of the rich ancient life we have behind us in Australia – and as you say change attitudes to managing the land. The scornful way the book’s revelations have been received by some commentators (mainly those who haven’t actually read it, I’m guessing) shows how much basic thinking should change, and our minds be opened up to the wonders we possess in Australia in these most ancient Indigenous cultures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny how people are so quick to want to knock any ideas that challenge the status quo and show practices of white people in a negative way. The dismissive attitude is so often there when you look. Still happens today unfortunately doesn’t it – Rio Tinto in WA. 😡


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