Tapping into the Past


I read this article, Rethinking Indigenous Australia’s agricultural past last week and I was pleased to see some greater understanding of the past of land management by aboriginal people in Australia.

This presents a different image of the Australian landscape and land management and practices pre-European settlement than has been taught in schools here over the years. It shows that it was possible to design the land for diversity of life, provide shelter, limit risks relating to flood/drought/fire/famine, and continue in this way for potentially thousands of years.

Is this the sustainability dream? As Bill Gammage (author of The Biggest Estate on Earth) comments in this video, we wouldn’t be looking at a total adoption of this way of life for today’s inhabitants. We would need to learn about fire, and our population is too big for these practices to work, let alone issues around attitudes and expectations of way of life to make such a radical change from how society looks now.  We would need a compromise where we don’t lose our biodiversity such as we are now, where we are not so threatened by the extremes climate change and the harsh natural cycles of Australia bring.  Debate in the political sphere here seems almost stuck at the first step, just acknowledging that this is happening.  What about the next step?  We need circulation of this understanding and these ideas to churn knowledge into possibility for the future.


I’ll finish up these thoughts with two quotes; this one because I have always liked it:

“Not all those who wander are lost” J. R. R. Tolkien

And this quote from Bill Gammage, which gives us a mission and a glimpse of a new identity:

“If we are to survive, let alone feel at home, we must begin to understand our country. If we succeed, one day we might be Australian.”