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Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu is in the news again, with the publication of a new book critiquing Pascoe’s arguments. Dark Emu builds on an earlier, less known work by archaeologist Rupert Gerritsen, who argued a number of regions across Australia should be considered centres of Aboriginal agriculture.

Historians Billy Griffiths and Lynette Russell, and now anthropologist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe, have argued Pascoe has fallen into a trap of privileging the language of agriculture above hunter-gatherer socioeconomic systems.

We have been working in a landscape that provides an important test of the Dark Emu hypothesis. In partnership with the Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation, who occupy the Channel Country in Central Australia, we have begun investigating Aboriginal settlement sites, pit dwelling huts (known as gunyahs) and quarries.

Our landscape study, published in the journal Antiquity, has found over 140 quarry sites, where rock was excavated to produce seed grinding stones. We have also developed a method to locate traces of long-lost village sites.

Were First Australians farmers or hunter-gatherers? Contemporary archaeological research suggests it’s not such a simple dichotomy. Understanding the Mithaka food production system may well tell us whether such terms are a good fit for defining socio-economic networks in Aboriginal Australia.

Aboriginal culture

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The Big Questions Raised by Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu – and the Budj Bim Experience
I notice, with some amusement, that a couple of academics have questioned the accuracy of Bruce Pascoe’s hugely successful book, “Dark Emu”. The story is in the SMH and The Age this weekend.
It is notable that they have not delivered the same broadside at Professor Bill Gamage’s “The Biggest Estate on Earth”. I guess they thought that Pascoe’s book was easy pickings.
They are, of course, wrong … at least at the core of the argument. The central point of “Dark Emu” is that the interpretation of Aboriginal life which asserts that they were primitive hunter-gatherers (and therefore on the lowest rung of human evolution) is simply wrong.
Like most non-indigenous Australians, I had always believed that pre-European First Nation society, from one end of the continent to the other, was essentially hunter-gatherer.
I was wrong. And so were most of the experts. We had simply not allowed that there could be a diversity of approaches to daily life within the vast number of language groups (some estimate it to be 700 languages) spread across the continent.
There were, obviously, hunter-gatherers. There were also groups who settled and developed sedentary societies – this was largely due to a richness of food and a pleasant climate, I suspect.
This idea of Australian Aborigines being “farmers” was first articulated by Bill Gammage in “The Biggest Estate on Earth” (2011) but it was Bruce Pascoe’s book “Dark Emu” (2014) which pushed the idea further and demonstrated the truth that many First Nation groups were actually very successful farmers. There was lots of evidence in the journals of early explorers … and we simply ignored it.
Pascoe’s (and Gammage’s) work was rewarded, and internationally acknowledged, when an area 9,935 ha around Lake Condah was officially placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List with the following citation: "Located within the Country of the Gunditjmara, an Aboriginal nation in the southwest of Australia, the property includes the Budj Bim Volcano and Tae Rak (Lake Condah), as well as the Kurtonitj component, characterised by wetland swamps, and Tyrendarra in the south, an area of rocky ridges and large marshes. The Budj Bim lava flows, which connect these three components, have enabled the Gunditjmara to develop one of the largest and oldest aquaculture networks in the world. Composed of channels, dams and weirs, they are used to contain floodwaters and create basins to trap, store and harvest the kooyang eel (Anguilla australis), which has provided the population with an economic and social base for six millennia."
This rewrites the history of First Nation people in Australia. They may have been hunter-gatherers but they were also farmers … and they were some of the first farmers on the planet.
To understand this idea of First Nation people as farmers – I would suggest that everyone interested in learning the truth should go on the Budj Bim Tours which operate out of Heywood, just north of Portland, in western Victoria. It makes a mockery of those who would idly dismiss Pascoe.
Budj Bim Tours offers local Indigenous guides, a carefully orchestrated and meaningful experience, a genuine insight into an impressive lifestyle now sadly lost, and a potentially life-changing experience which leaves everyone with a very clear impression that First Nation lifestyles were much more complex than simple hunter-gatherers.
When it comes to aquaculture (smoked eels and fish traps) and structural engineering – building houses and fish traps out of the basalt left by a volcano some 30,000 years ago – they were thousands of years ahead of other early cultures.
The tour, the first part of which lasts for two and a half hours and concentrates on Tyrendarra, an area of rocky ridges and large marshes, in perfectly structured.
A path has been constructed through the rocky marshland and, progressively, it passes a stream where eels migrated and where the reeds are a ready supply of “bush tucker”; then it is on to a fish trap, an ingenious device which the women weaved out of reeds and grasses from the marshes; an ancient fish track cut out of the basalt; recreations of stone huts (the original ones, there were 70 in the area, was torn down by Europeans and used as fences); and on to a place where visitors can reflect on the sad history of Gunditjamara and the massacres which occurred around Australia.
It is an experience every Australian should have ... and it is unforgettable. Don’t believe the naysayers. "Dark Emu" has a simple and important truth which cannot be denied.
Photos: Here’s Braydon Saunders, one of the guides, telling with great passion timeless stories from Lake Condah and Aaron Morgan explaining the channels cut by the Gunditjamara people.
Aunty Joan this is what I mentioned elsewhere

In 1778 the First Fleet came armed with 14 nets, 8000 fishhooks and 576 lines, but the Europeans struggled to adapt their techniques to alien waters that had already been fished with success for thousands of years, and regarding line fishing, First Nations women were the experts.
Back then, you would have seen Durunga women walking the shoreline gathering oysters and shellfish. If you peered out across the water you would spot them paddling their little nowie canoes to handline for fresh snapper, dory and bream.
At the end of these lines, elegant fishhooks made from carved abalone or turban shells were dropped over the side of their canoes. These nowies were nothing more than a large piece of bark tied up at both ends with vines, described the British officer Watkin Tench, in his account of early Sydney. Yet these women were master skippers, navigating their boats in the swell, hauling in fish, and wrangling infants in their tiny vessels.
You could hear the singing from nearby coves, where the songs of the Durunga women rang out across the water and down to the fish below. To strengthen their fishing powers First Nations women and men sang to the fish with charms for the Dreaming.

What they don't teach in our schools

THE BATTLE OF ONE TREE HILL - The Aboriginal resistance that stunned Queensland
In 1840, Brisbane was the furthest outpost of settled Australia. On all sides, it was embedded in a richly Indigenous world. Over the next few years, mostly from across New South Wales northern plains, a large push of pastoralists poured into the Darling Downs, Lockyer and much of southern Queensland, establishing huge sheep stations. The violence that erupted welded many of the tribal groups into an alliance that, by 1842, was working to halt the advance.
The Battle of One Tree Hill tells the story of one of the most audacious stands against this migration. It concerns actions engineered by a father and son, Moppy and Multuggerah. In 1843, this culminated in an ingenious ambush and one of the first solid defeats of white settlement in Queensland.
The battle at Mount Table Top, 128 kilometres west of Brisbane, astounded many at the time. The response was most likely the largest action of the frontier wars: the assembly of some 100 or more officers, soldiers, police and armed settlers – much of the region’s white settlement – drawn from hundreds of square kilometres. This force sought to drive out the warriors, but despite their best efforts, resistance not only persisted, but managed a few more victories. A fort had to be established to protect travellers, and brutal skirmishes, massacres, raids and robberies trickled on for decades.
The Battle of One Tree Hill introduces us to many of the flamboyant characters, curious reversals of fortune and neglected incidents that together helped establish early Queensland. This narrative work combines decades of archival research, analysis, reconstruction and interviews conducted by historians Ray Kerkhove and Frank Uhr.
The Battle of One Tree Hill - The Aboriginal Resistance That Stunned Queensland by Ray Kerkhove and Frank Uhr
Buy online or ask your local library to access a copy for you to borrow
ACADEMIC PAPER by Ray Kerkhove
Section: The case for a "South-east Queensland Black War" (1843 to 1855) An unofficial conflict with a historic beginning and end?
(Sovereign Union Website)
Sovereignty never ceded 
The naming of our people king or queen was an attempt to divide our people
As my great grandmother was also called queen.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'Portraits of Biddy Salamander of the BrokenBay Tribe, Bulkabra Chief of Botany, Gooseberry Queen of Bungaree, as depicted by Charles Rodius in 1834 (Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW) All First Nations people have significant Warriors in their family history otherwise they wouldn't be here. Sovereign Union'

Thanks, Davy for posting such an important and interesting subject, of course, you know better than anyone the resistance this subject gets among the Australian establishment. Keep on kicking on that door, my friend.

Johann Wilhelm Theodor Ludwig von Blandowski (1822-1878), was a Polish born German explorer and zoologist. He is most known for his exploration of the Murray and Darling Region aided by a German naturalist, Gerard Krefft, illustrating animals, plants and birds, but demonstrated a fascination of the First Nations people and their day-to-day activities as seen in his numerous illustrations.
In his return with the images he had a major fall-out with the scientific community in Melbourne after holding a position of colonial prestige, and the reasons given by the colonial scientists were very shallow, so there must have also been an issue with his interest in First Nations peoples, as the other intellectuals had incurious attitudes towards 'the savages', at best.
Blandowski left Melbourne and returned to Germany after the public fall-out with his contemporaries and took many of his illustrations with him. His sister made them available to the public upon his death but many were not seen by most people in Australia for over 100 years. A comprehensive collection of many of his illustrations are now included in a book edited by Harry Allen and published by AIATSIS in 2010, including this image.
Women carrying, preparing and cooking 'Bulrush', Cumbungi, GUMBUNG (Wemba Wemba) BOURT-DEET (Wurundjeri) roots in the plains area of the Lower Murray River. From William Blandowski's expedition to the lower Murray between 1856 and 1857 (Central Murray Vic/NSW).
The women collected the roots in shallow swamps between January and March as a staple vegetable food throughout the high summer period. The small secondary roots are taken off, then the bigger roots are tied into bundles and put onto heated in earth and clay kilns and roasted for 2-3 hours.
William Blandowski Biography:
More Blandowski illustrations:
The book: (also available in Libraries)

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'This Explorer showe a great interest in everyday habits of Aboriginal people. William Blandowski was so fascinated that his contemporaries ostracised him, and he left Australia with his important sketches.'


What we are really kicking against is the arrogance of the Europeans. When someone does not want to view a subject from another perspective as they are thinking their perspective is right and there is no other perspective than mine. That is arrogance pure and simple.
As what they are really telling you is that they are the superior ones and that has not change an iota since the Europeans began their wanderings and invasions of other lands new to them. That arrogance was most blatant back then as their writings from those days dripped with it.

Our answer to the neo-colonials who keep telling us that Aboriginal people didn't even invent the wheel is, 'neither did you!' ... more on the wheel below the important stuff.

QUOTE: "Aboriginal population matched the carrying capacity of the land because they saw their primary mandate as caring for the land and each other, their society was focused on the development of sophisticated technologies for land management, resource husbanding and population control.

The structure of Aboriginal society also reflected these ecological considerations and elder-ship was attained not simply through age, but by demonstrated and accumulated merit in both religious and secular knowledge. There was therefore no division between church and state, because elders had to demonstrate a unified knowledge base as well as a communal approach to decision making.

Through this blending of spiritual and secular authority in a system of elder-ship. Aboriginal society might be best described as a 'Druidic Meritocracy'. It was therefore a truly communalist society with no individual or specific group having control over resources.

There was no individual accumulation of wealth or power and as a consequence there was conversely no accumulated poverty or disadvantage. there were no social class differences apart from the respect due to age and merit, and as indicated. decision making was by consensus rather than edict.

All tribal areas were based on water catchment areas and the totemic system was utilised as a means of species conservation and land management.' The totem system therefore had a primary ecological purpose and all knowledge was integrated through the totem system to serve that primary ecological purpose.

This ecological focus was achieved by the universal way in which the totem system was structured across Australia and in turn how this determined the structure of Aboriginal society itself. Aboriginal family kinship was therefore an integral part of their system of ecological relationship and control. Aboriginal people therefore saw human society as an interdependent part of the whole ecology and not separate from or holding dominion over it.

For instance in all Aboriginal societies a Yin and Yang type of conceptual division existed, where every living and non living thing was divided between these two halves or 'moieties'. At the simplest level (and there were several ritual exceptions) this meant that an individual was not allowed to hunt or eat any of the animals in their own moiety. because they were his or her spirit cousins.

In this way at least half the food sources were taboo to an individual and for instance it might mean you could eat wallaby but not grey kangaroo, or ring-tailed possum but not brush-tailed possum. As indicated, the totem system also governed marriage and family relationships and together with common male and female contraceptive practices, all tribes ensured that their population remained consistent with the natural carrying capacity of the land.

This was however not just the carrying capacity of the land in a good or average year, but in the worst of years. For Aboriginal people abundance was the norm. “These land management and population control practices therefore meant that prior to British settlement in 1788 Aboriginal people in Australia enjoyed the highest common standard of living of any people in the world.”

Excerpt from 'The Dust of the Mindye' by Jim Poulter PhD.M.S.W. Dip.Crim. Dip. Soc.Stud. MAASW


There are historical arguments about where the wheel came from, but a popular belief is that a wheel was first recorded in the middle east, in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around the 4th century BC, or another popular belief is it was Mesopotamia an historical region of Western Asia around 3500 BC.

The wheel certainly didn't first arrive on the shores of this continent by the British, it is well known that many ships arrived before 1770, and some of these even traded with First Nations people for centuries, and most of the vessels had wheels for the visitors many uses, but it appears that no First Nations tribe or clan had any continuous need for them.

Good and informative post-Davy we make too many assumptions about the Aboriginal peoples. As for the invention of the wheel, people forget that it only needed to be invented once and then it spread around the world. Who First invented it is irrelevant, we are all human with the same mental capacity.

I agree with nearly all of the above post. This Neo colonial had some very good friends in the Mareeba-Dimbulah Clan.  One elder, I  only knew as UNCLE, took me under his wing and taught me bushcraft as well as general history of their society.

They are an incredible people with over 200 languages over the whole continent. But a legal system much fairer and better than anything our modern society has so far devised.

 Serious crimes were dealt with by the Kadeicha man.This man had his big toes broken and would track down the serious felon and administer justice. Possibly by "pointing the Bone" or direct killing of the felon once caught . Because of the broken toe  this man's tracks served as an announcement to the tribes through which he travelled. No one  could or would impede the Kadeicha man. Food was left out for him, but every other aboriginal would put as much distance between them and the kidaecha man as possible.

 Tribal wars were fought, and usually was settled when a man from one side was speared in the leg. the issues was then deemed as settled, the war over.

 Why couldn't we have learned from such a culture before the colonials who started the genocide and we continue it on today, destroyed so much of the knowledge base?

Thank you for that info. as my grandmother was forbidden to even say she was an Awabakal women otherwise they would have taken her kids from her like they took her from her Mother. Therefore she could not tell us anything about the Awabakal culture nor teach us the Awabakal language. It was not until Grandma had passed through the portal named death in 1990 at the age of around 106 years old. That is when  my brother began tracking down our family history and that is when we found out that we indeed were Aboriginals. He did not begin it earlier out of respect for our Grandma.

Oh! By the way don't let my avatar fool you that is just how my genes expressed themselves and decided to give me a more European look. Despite my looks our cousins the Wiradjuri whose Elders accepted me as being Aboriginal. 

Quote from the article. 

"Aboriginal society might be best described as a 'Druidic Meritocracy'"

This implies that the structure of our Society was vertical and lead by a religious elder which it was not. It was Horizontally structured with privileges being unheard of as the leaders were also governed by the Lore/ Law of the society. The only merit required was that you knew and understood both Lore and Law and knew how to apply the Law with wisdom.
Yes! The lore may seem religious but the reality was it gave the reason only for the Law which was secular. It also made it easier to teach the children the lore so as adult they understood better the Law of the people. 

But then again sociologist can only visualise one form of social structure with the being a hierarchical  structure society. So they frame every explanation within that vertical structure.


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