Life was not a 'walkabout' for the First Nations peoples before their sustainable farms were destroyed and the 'lucky' ones chased out of their homes and hunted off the country, and forced into hunting and gathering for survival.
Bruce Pascoe claims the history of Aboriginal people in Australia has been badly represented and that First Nations agricultural practices would greatly benefit mainstream Australia if they took the time to learn them.
(State Library of Victoria).
Charlotte King and Deb Banks www.abc.net.au Mildura 28 July 2014
Hundreds packed the La Trobe auditorium to hear Bruce Pascoe present the final session of the Mildura Writers Festival on Sunday, where he spoke about his new book, Dark Emu.
The book argues the idea that the first Australians were hunter gatherers has been invented to undermine Aboriginal people.
"My message to my own people," he says, "is the rest of the country's not going to change if we don't stick up for our culture; and our culture was one where we had an agricultural economy."
"If we stick up for our culture, it'll be useful not just for us but for the whole of Australia, because some of those crops that our people were growing are going to be useful in the future."
Perpetuating a misconception
Mr Pascoe says a commonly held belief in Australia is that Aboriginal people were immediately defeated with the arrival of Europeans.
"There was a war for the possession of the soil, and Aboriginal people lost the war," he says.
He says it is cruel to deny the pre-existence of Aboriginal people and their involvement with the land.
"As a country we've got to get over that."
Mr Pascoe says he believes Aboriginal people are pragmatic enough to know that history cannot be reversed, but he says the attitude between people does need to be redressed.
"We could all benefit from just looking at the products that Aboriginal people were producing, because a lot of them didn't require a lot of water to keep them alive.
"Commercially, there's a lot of sense in looking at those products, like the grains and the tubers."
Researchers few and far between
But Mr Pascoe says there is currently very little research being conducted into this area.
"There are a few people conducting yam trials and I met a man yesterday in Mildura who is keen to conduct trials on native millet."
The scientist he is talking about is the Japanese artist, Yutaka Kobayashi, who is currently in residence in the town.
Mr Pascoe says Mt Yutaka's interest fits with an ongoing trend for people from outside the country to lead the interest in researching Aboriginal history.
"The archeologists tended to be Italians and Americans; Australians, not being able to look over their shoulder at the past, couldn't fully engage in that history.
But he says the opportunity remains for young Australians to do this.
"We have the capacity for change, and it's going to happen," he says.
All three of the following audio's are excellent but the first one is the most comprehensive - it's 45 minutes of conversation between Bruce Pascoe and Karen Dorante and jam packed with information on the agricultural activities of the First Nations people on the great southern continent between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, named 'Australia' by the illegal British invaders.
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