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Dark Emu

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  9,813 ratings  ·  1,487 reviews
Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for precolonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books suppor ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published 2014 by Magabala Books
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John The book is persuasive rather than informative, and at times inaccurate. For example Bruce puts a photo of a Meriam Island House (Torres Strait) in hi…moreThe book is persuasive rather than informative, and at times inaccurate. For example Bruce puts a photo of a Meriam Island House (Torres Strait) in his section on Arnhem Land 'dome houses'. He also quotes from Mitchell, Sturt, and Dawson very selectively, leaving out all the parts that contradict his argument. Read these primary sources and you get a different picture to the one Bruce paints. His mention of stone houses is exaggerated, because the location he discusses (lake Condah) while certainly containing Aboriginal structure, also has the remains of European structures according to some archaeologists (eg. Sharon Lane). He says fish traps are aquaculture which is just silly. It's good that Bruce draws attention to the fact that Aboriginal people managed the land (not farmed) in a sustainable manner, and cared for the environment as opposed to the capitalist system which destroys the environment. This book will be accepted by most of the public who normally just believe nice stories rather than true stories. My advice if you are genuinely interested in the truth on this subject is to read the primary sources Bruce uses, but also to read the multitude of other sources on Aboriginal culture, bush food & land management practices; many written by Aboriginal people living traditionally today.(less)
Mitchell That's not a question, and it's telling that this history of Aboriginal Australians triggered you so badly you decided to sign up to Goodreads purely …moreThat's not a question, and it's telling that this history of Aboriginal Australians triggered you so badly you decided to sign up to Goodreads purely complain about it.(less)

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Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book ought to be made compulsory reading for every Australian. There is a Ted talk by Bruce Pascoe that covers some of the ground covered here ( but this book goes into much more detail.

The standard understanding of Australia prior to white settlement, even in the kindest versions, is that the Australian Aboriginals were trapped in a land without domesticable plants or animals. This meant they had to live the nomadic lives of hunter-gatherers, and it
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Check your conspiracy theories! A free cut-out-and-keep guide

Quickly read the following stories. For each one, decide whether you believe version A or version B.

The Shoah

Version A: Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazi German government systematically arrested, interned and murdered about six million Jews.

Version B: Reports of the so-called "Holocaust" were greatly exaggerated by the international Jewry in order to further their Zionist aims. The so-called "death camps" had no gas
“Imagine you are riding beside the explorer and surveyor Major Thomas Mitchell (1792-1855). He’s an educated and sensitive man and would have been great company, if a little eccentric.”

I’ll say! Pascoe has written often about Aboriginal history, but this is the first book of his I’ve read. He has included extensive references to original diaries and papers as well as to research. There are several photos, but the ones I’ve included here are from other sources.

I’ve read some of this information
Paul Christensen
Jun 03, 2020 rated it did not like it
Pascoe tries to paint Aborigines as some kind of rustic, pastoral race, ignoring overwhelming amounts of evidence (found in the journals of explorers like Sturt) that they actually invented differential calculus, built gothic cathedrals full of esoteric symbolism (Europeans simply ripped these off), and even had the first intergalactic civilisation, before evil white supremacists like Pascoe conspired to cover up the full, awe-inspiring scale of their achievements.
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When world-famous Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was asked on a US radio show about Aboriginal people in her country, she replied: "The thing about Aboriginal people is they don't believe in living in enclosed structures, houses... They all want to live under the stars because that's their culture, even now... The government build houses and the Aboriginal people trash them and take the beds outside cos they don't believe in houses and they want to live under the stars." Perhaps the rapper - who ...more
Jonathan O'Neill
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Update 06/09/20: Increased rating from 3 to 3.5. I had some concerns about the historical accuracy of this text due to some controversy regarding a lack of primary and verifiable sources. I have since come across statements from a number of respected individuals who have thrown their support behind the work and also discovered that a lot of the pushback against it is likely political.

3.5 ⭐

‘Dark Emu’ is Bruce Pascoe’s impassioned plea for further research into the history of Australia’s indigeno
Morgan Blanch
I debated for a long time on whether or not I should properly review this. I didn’t really feel like I could adequately review a book of non-fiction being that most of my reading is based in fiction. But this work explores a lot of really important issues about Aboriginal culture and land pre-colonisation and I think it’s really important that people are at least aware that this knowledge exists and is publicly available.

In saying that however, 1) I haven’t rated it and, 2) it’s going to be fair
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book proves that there is a need for a more comprehensive coverage of this subject of Aboriginal Australians and their pre colonial agriculture. At 156 pages of text far too short so therefore not as in depth as I would have thought possible.

None the less fascinating. Recommended.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark Emu: aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture is a non-fiction book by lecturer, researcher and award-winning author, Bruce Pascoe. Pascoe is of Bunurong and Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage. In this book, he tries to convey a wealth of information about Australia’s indigenous population before white settlement with which many readers will be unfamiliar.

Contrary to previously accepted belief that the Australian aboriginals were hunter-gatherers, Pascoe details evidence of agricu
Nov 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
People, why are you all signing up to Pascoe's fantasy? If you truly want to know what the early explorers observed, go to Project Gutenberg. There you'll find many copies of early explorers journals. After downloading them and thoroughly reading the eyewitness accounts, come back here and write a knowledgeable review based the real evidence of those early explorers, not Pascoe's fabrications and wishful thinking. ...more
✨    jay   ✨
A very interesting exploration of the narratives around Aboriginal Australian's that cast them as a hunter-gatherer culture. I think this is more persuasive than necessarily informative (though of course, Pascoe cites his evidence) but in some sections, I thought Pascoe could have explored more in-depth. I felt sometimes the content moved on too quickly from each point being made (this is a very short book). That said, I think this was still excellently written and certainly interesting and defi ...more
Dr M.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. There is no proof of Pascoe's claims in this book.

Much worse, with minor effort at checking his claims I was able to immediately prove that he had entirely misrepresented the diaries of the explorers he had quoted. These range widely. The most egregious examples I noted were:
1. Misrepresenting a report of wild grasses growing along a creek for nine miles and evidence of hunter-gathering to be nine miles of harvested agricultural land.
2. Stating
John Purcell
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading. And all the money needed to do the further research suggested in this book should be given over now. Read it.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
The book is persuasive rather than informative, and at times inaccurate. For example Bruce puts a photo of a Meriam Island House (Torres Strait) in his section on Arnhem Land 'dome houses'. He also quotes from Mitchell, Sturt, and Dawson very selectively, leaving out all the parts that contradict his argument. Read these primary sources and you get a different picture to the one Bruce paints. His mention of stone houses is exaggerated, because the location he discusses (lake Condah) while certai ...more
Oct 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
While only 1/3 the way through the book I've seen enough to let me know that Pascoe has failed to come to grips with the material he is working with.

Some examples: Quotes frequently don't match up with the sources. Important claims often have no source given for them, or the source is unavailable and Pascoe won't give a quote. There is no critical engagement with his material: There is no attempt to question or contextualise his historical sources - Pascoe treats them literally and as though th
Nick Grammos
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australian, history
The diaries and journals of early Australian explorers and settlers tell a different story of Aboriginal settlement than the later historians and especially contemporary conservatives and politicians. That is, the land was managed for hunting, fishing, agriculture. Some newcomers described the landscape as a kind of park, not unlike the managed estates of English gentry, open fields, woods and farms. Those diaries therefore tell us that the premise of Australia's settlement, ie, the rights of Br ...more
Chris Oliver
Jan 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Someone who wants to know what bogus history-writing looks like.
A few things of the many things I didn't like about Dark Emu.
1) Pascoe starts from the false premise that hunter-gatherers didn't/don't thresh wild grass seeds or dig for tubers or live in fairly settled communities close to their fish traps, close to their main sources of food. When humans start threshing seed they start influencing the process natural selection - for instance, seeds that cling to the stem and seeds with thick outer shells that are harder to grind or digest tend not to be eaten
Jenny Schwartz
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
In "Dark Emu" the author, Bruce Pascoe, refers to some other books discussing land use in Australia pre-European intrusion. I've read Bill Gammage's "The Biggest Estate on Earth" and thoroughly enjoyed its challenge to read our landscape differently.

Bruce Pascoe has Bunurong/Tasmanian Heritage and brings a more overtly political and personal approach to the question of how humans have managed and lived in the Australian country through the millennia.

The book isn't long, and I'm not going to try
Ian Tymms
This Christmas I visited a friend who gave me two precious things: a copy of Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu and an envelope of seeds from the daisy yam, Microsceris lanceolata, known as “murnong" in the Boonwurrung language.

Dark Emu begins by challenging the received historical wisdom about Australian Aboriginal peoples which says that they were hunter-gatherers who lived opportunistically in a kind of harsh subsistence at the hands of nature. Pascoe argues that this description suited early settl
Mel Campbell
This beautifully researched survey of Australian indigenous agriculture is jam-packed with fascinating information about some very sophisticated land management, infrastructure-building and primary production practices. Pascoe's innovative approach combines archaeological evidence from contemporary fieldwork with meticulously researched archival accounts of the earliest white colonisers, whose observations of the local peoples they encountered reveal much more now than they did to 18th- and 19th ...more
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
A rather important, worthwhile read for all Australians. "Dark Emu" is one of several recent books (another being the comprehensive "The Greatest Estate on Earth" - a superior and more objective read, if I'm honest) seeking to shatter the many misconceptions about the way Aboriginal Australians lived before their land was taken over by the white man.

"Arguing over whether the Aboriginal economy was a hunter-gatherer system or one of burgeoning agriculture is not the central issue. The crucial poi
M - The long hot spell
Dark Emu is a fabulous book. I wish I had borrowed the hard copy rather than audio because, though the audio was great and was easy-listen, this is an important book. I'm remedying that by putting it on my list of books to buy and even consider as gifts.

(Incidentally, after buying too many books in the past, last year I decided to read library copies and then, if I LOVE them, to buy. I figure that's how not to end up with too many that you don't like, or are that are so-so. Anyhoo, barring a cou
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t claim to know a lot about Aboriginal history—I’d say I know the very basics. The extent of my high school education was essentially ‘we screwed up, but we said sorry!’. Now that I’m a good few years out of school, I’ve been working on changing that which is what led me to pick up this book.

And boy, was it an eye-opening read!

I never thought that I’d be interested in a book about agriculture, but this was surprisingly engaging. It should absolutely be required reading. In fact, I believe
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and essential reading for all Australians.
Kat Kennedy
An amazing journey, well-written and researched.
ale ♡
May 30, 2021 marked it as to-read
Recommended to ale ♡ by: Tea Greinke
Yes, I'm here all the way for reading about precolonial Aboriginal Australians! Thanks to Tea for the rec!!! <3 ...more
Trigger warnings: racism, racial slurs, genocide of Indigenous populations, colonisation.

I've been hearing amazing things about this book for the past couple of years, and it did NOT disappoint. Having read Bill Gammage's The Greatest Estate on Earth last year, I was really intrigued to see how this would differ. To summarise: that focuses on so-called firestick farming and land management. This discusses not only agriculture but aquaculture, housing, population, and numerous other examinations
Michael Livingston
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a brilliant summary of the evidence that Indigenous Australians had much more developed societies than we were taught about in school. Farming, aquaculture, stone houses and more - all described by early colonial explorers, but lost in the broader narrative of terra nullius. The writing's pretty dry, but this is an important and necessary piece of work, with major implications for Australia today. ...more
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Read this brilliant book! Add it to your wishlist, request it from your library, get it any (legal) way you can.

Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu is a detailed & fully research look at pre-colonization agriculture, architecture, fishing and more.

I learnt so much, was really impressed by how he has made a lot of very academic research & information easy to read. Even someone like me (who knows virtually nothing about the topics mentioned) can see the significance of what his research highlights.
Anna Baillie-Karas
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Richly informative. Pascoe makes the case for a new Australian history. Aboriginal Australians managed land, grew & stored grains, built houses & engineered fishing systems. White settlers (& so history books) portrayed them as mere Hunter-gatherers. Pascoe shows how this was wrong & gives reasons why (& thus our twisted narrative & problems w reconciliation). We can learn much from Aboriginal ways of managing land & eating sustainably.
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Bruce Pascoe was born of Bunurong and Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond and graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Education. He is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative of southern Victoria and has been the director of the Australian Studies Project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission.

Bruce has had a varied career as a teach

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