Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia

Professor Bill Gammage (ANU) in Association with the National History Museum

Wednesday 25 July 2012
18.15, talk followed by book launch and drinks reception
Council Room, 2nd Floor Kings Building, Strand Campus


'The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia'

"Explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people. Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.

For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. We know Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and now we know how they did it.

With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, The Biggest Estate on Earth rewrites the history of this continent, with huge implications for us today. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience. And what we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind."

Winner, 2011 Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards (Individual category)
Shortlisted, 2012 Kay Daniels Award (Australian Historical Association)

Bill Gammage is a historian and adjunct professor in the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. He is best known as author of the ground-breaking The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War.

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