Bruce Pascoe has written a book for our times. First published in 2014, winning the Indigenous Writers Prize in the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, this book has now been reprinted in this new edition multiple times.
Bruce’s voice is clear and conversational as he lays out the evidence for a very different history of Indigenous Culture. He says with some embarrassment that he believed the white man’s history himself as a young man – the idea that Aboriginal people were nomadic hunter-gatherers and never worked or improved the land. In this book he returns to the original sources from early explorers, settlers, protectorates and archaeological evidence to show that we have all been told a lie. First Australians did cultivate the land and harvest crops of yams, fruits and grains; they built stone homes, stone fish traps and changed river courses. In many parts of Australia they lived in semi-permanent villages and traded across vast distances. They had complex moral codes which tied them deeply and inextricably to this land.
This is a powerful story, and it is told in a spirit of optimism and generosity. Inherent in this story is an offering of hope to all Australians, that we look with fresh eyes at our indigenous plants and our first people’s land management and knowledge and use these techniques to heal our country and find an agricultural system that is better suited to our soils and climate. It is also a work of political assertion as well, for one of the excuses colonial Australians used for not recognising Aboriginal people’s sovereignty was that they were ‘deficient and primitive’.
In the context of discussions on Treaty and the Uluru Statement from the Heart this book must awaken all of us from our erroneous beliefs.
Dark Emu is clearly written and well researched, with useful illustrations and quotes from early explorers and includes many fascinating and new stories. Although it’s greatest appeal will be to those already interested in Australian history and Aboriginal culture it is an accessible book that everyone can enjoy - a must read for all Australians!
NOTE: The book has been adapted as a children’s book Young Dark Emu which is on order but you can put yourself on the hold list now.
Bruce Pascoe has been a prolific writer, some of his other books include…
By Community Coordinator, Watsonia Library