Dark Emu – Bruce Pascoe

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Dark Emu  – Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?– Bruce Pascoe

Magabala Books

March 2014

ISBN 9781922142436

RRP $35.00

PB 176 p.

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Secondary – Adult

 

Experienced author, national award winner and Bunurong man, Bruce Pascoe, provides us with a completely new insight into Australian history in this easy-to-read non-fiction book.

Pascoe refutes the long-held belief that the Aboriginal people were simple hunter-gatherers and challenges that notion as a ‘convenient lie’ by colonisers intent on ignoring the original Indigenous owners of this land.

With evidence from original records and early diaries Pascoe presents new evidence about food production, construction of dwellings and clothing. Contrary to the European colonists claim that the Aboriginal people did not farm this land, Pascoe describes the sowing, growing of crops, irrigation methods, food preservation and building undertaken by the First Australians, outlining a society that was far from being subsistence hunter-gatherers.

I found this book extremely interesting reading with much new information about the historical background of the Aboriginal people. Fascinating newly recognised facts about Aboriginal architecture and settlements (often up to 1000 people), diverting of watercourses and irrigation of crops, the use of fire as a tool for the last 120 000 years are just some of the enlightening revelations here. Some of this information is completely surprising e.g. the cultural practices around graveyards:

Pascoe urges our authorities to begin to acknowledge the truth about the Aboriginal society and culture at the time of the European invasion and his history is supported by respected historians and scholars.

I think this book, which is very accessible, interesting and often revealing, would be an excellent authoritative resource for school libraries, particularly secondary ones. As today is Sorry Day and as Reconciliation Week kicks off, you may like to consider this as a worthy addition to your curriculum and library collection.

You might also be interested to visit the Dark Emu blog http://darkemu.wordpress.com/

 

Listen to interviews with Bruce here

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/dark-emu-challenges-of-early-aboriginal-history/5361210

www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2014/03/17/3965103.htm?site=kimberley 

 

Check out the wonderful selection of publications at Magabala

 

http://www.magabala.com/home

 

Inheritance – Carole Wilkinson

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650360
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

Carole Wilkinson has created a superbly plausible narrative which realistically weaves historic realism from Australia’s past from the perspective of both First Australians and early white settlers putting an ugly side to the beginnings of our modern nation in full view. For too long much of this history has been ignored or whitewashed (pun intended) in order to placate a national consciousness.

Fourteen year old Nic (Veronica) has been left in the care of her taciturn grandfather in the old family homestead out in the country. Her mother, whom Nic lost when she was born, grew up here and Nic longs to find out more about her. She also wonders why the once grandiose sprawling homestead has become so rundown and neglected and so finds more than one mystery to solve.  Her start at a new school is not very encouraging but she at least can assimilate into the ‘loners’ group. Most especially disturbing for her is the instant antipathy from Thor, another loner, whose grievance against her seems to be solely based upon her family name.

While Nic discovers a strange gift inherited from her Scottish female side – the ability to time travel – and begins to unravel secrets about her pioneering family, Thor is trying to find evidence of a truth he knows to be so with regards to the tragedy of his own people, the Djargurd wurrung, original occupiers of the area.

After their inauspicious start Nic and Thor end up joining forces to uncover the truth of their own family histories and a start to reconciliation though not without many disconcerting discoveries, including the real story of Nic’s mother.

For those who have not read Bruce Pascoe’s excellent book Dark Emu there will be much to learn here about largely unknown First Australian culture, settlements and agriculture. The oft-repeated stereotyping of the ‘hunter/gatherer/nomadic’ society who did nothing to entitle them keeping their land is thoroughly de-bunked – a falsehood perpetuated as some kind of justification for the dispossession of our indigenous peoples.  For those who are not aware of the heinous actions of some early settlers, there will also be disturbing revelations about the conduct of some of those often held up as examples of founders of white settlements.

Young readers may well be dismayed to find out such history but it is important to know if we, as a nation, are to move forward with the gathering momentum towards full recognition and reconciliation. It has already taken too long and many older people would prefer to ignore the truth so it is essential that our youth know the real facts.  Historical fiction such as this, based squarely on actual events, goes a long way towards this.

I highly recommend this book to readers from Upper Primary upwards and think it is a valuable addition to a ‘read around your topic’ for students of history.