"Dark Emu injects a profound authenticity into the conversation about how we Australians understand our continent... essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what Australia once was, or what it might yet be if we heed the lessons of long and sophisticated human occupation.’ - judges for 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for pre-colonial 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. Rupert Gerritsen (Australia and the Origins of Agriculture) and Bill Gammage (The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia) supported this premise in their books, but Pascoe takes it further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence in Dark Emu comes from the records and diaries of Australian explorers, impeccable sources.
Bruce says of his book, compared to Gammage’s: “My book is about food production, housing construction and clothing, whereas Gammage was interested in the appearance of the country at contact. [Gammage] doesn’t contest hunter gatherer labels either, whereas that is at the centre of my argument.”