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 previously realised.
For over a decade, Gammage examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He 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.
Readers may also be interested in Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture by Bruce Pascoe.
Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication:
01 June 2012
Introduction: The Australian estate 1. Curious landscapes 2. Canvas of a continent. Why was Aboriginal land management possible? 3. The nature of Australia 4. Heaven on earth 5. Country. How was land managed? 6. The closest ally 7. Associations 8. Templates 9. A capital tour 10. Farms without fences Invasion 11. Becoming Australian. Appendix 1: Science, history and landscape; Appendix 2: Current botanical names for plants named with capitals in the text. Notes. Bibliography. Index.
Reviews for The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia
This bold book, with its lucid prose and vivid illustrations, will be discussed for years to come. -- Australian Book Review
- Winner of ACT Book of the Year Award 2012
- Winner of ACT Book of the Year Award 2012 (Australia)
- Winner of ACT Book of the Year Award 2012.
- Winner of and Victorian Premier's Literary Awards (Prize for Non-Fiction) 2012 (Australia)
- Winner of Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History 2012
- Winner of Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History 2012.
- Winner of Queensland Literary Awards: University of Southern Queensland History Book Award 2012
- Winner of Queensland Literary Awards: University of Southern Queensland History Book Award 2012.
- Winner of Victorian Premier's Literary Award - Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction 2012.