Review in 10 words: A must read for any Australian. A lot to unpack. 4/5.
How to consume: You need time to unpack a lot of ideas whilst reading this. Consume it slowly and intentionally.
Dark Emu stands as an argument against the engrained narrative of Australian History. It refutes the “Hunter-gatherer” tag that has been applied to First Nations peoples through colonisation.
It explores the ingenious agricultural practices and civilised communities that Aboriginal people had established long before the invasion of British explorers.
Bruce’s story provides insight into ways forward for not only agricultural and food practices in Australia but also how we can flourish as a country.
You know those books that fundamentally shift your view? The ones you wish you had given to yourself 10 years ago?
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is one of those books. Admittedly, it wasn’t published until 2014- BUT STILL. I should have read it the minute it came out- Every Australian should in my opinion.
It’s the book we should be reading in school. It should be a core part of the curriculum for Australian History and Geography. I remember being taught about the Aboriginal population and how they were simple hunters and gatherers before European “settlement” (I don’t think “colonisation” was ever mentioned in my lessons until uni). I acknowledge the controversy around the contents of the book- Some have claimed cherry picked information and more rhetoric and than fact.
The book offers a new perspective and opinion. Bruce writes on a really heavy subject in a way that keeps you interested. He has done extensive research and includes a lot of great sources including first explorer’s diaries, photos and drawings as well as contemporary works that a reader could go and read extensively if they wish.
Facts and notes that stood out for me:
- There is evidence that Aboriginal people were the first bakers- learning the skill approx. 15,000 years before ancient Egypt- Additionally, the grains they used could be part of the answer to contemporary resource/food scarcity in Australia.
- “In denying the existence of the economy, they were denying the right of the people to their land, and fabricating the excuse that is at the heart of Australia’s claim to legitimacy today.'”
- Modern dating techniques show that Aboriginal people have been in the country for approx. 60,000 years. Recent studies of a midden aged it at 80,000 years. That’s 10,000 years before the “Out of Africa” theory… It was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
- Bruce’s research into fire stick/vegetation management is extremely relevant as bush fires continue to pose a natural disaster for the country- an area where historically there has been minimal collaboration efforts by the government to work with Aboriginal communities.
Ultimately, I acknowledge that Dark Emu has been a controversial book- But, it has gotten people discussing the past. I feel like there was not nearly as much critique made to information in history books from when I was in high school… it was just an accepted narrative.