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.
Winner of the Prize for Australian History in the Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2012; The History Book Award in the Queensland Literary Awards 2012; the Victorian Prize for Literature 2012; and the ACT Book of the Year 2012
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.
Why was Aboriginal land management possible?
How was land managed?
Appendix 1 Science historyand landscape
Appendix 2 Current botanical names for plants named with capitals in the text
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Aborigines acacia Adelaide Alfred Howitt Allan Cunningham animals Arnhem Land Australia banks bark beautiful belts brush burning burnt bush bushfires camp Canberra clear clumps coast Compare pictures covered creek Cunningham Curr dense drought east edge eucalypts Europeans Eyre vol farm Fensham fire fish flats forest Gammage grass grassland green ground grow Hallam hills Hoddle HrNSW hunting inland kangaroo Kangaroo Grass kilometres Lake land landscape Latz Leichhardt lignotubers mallee metres miles Mitchell Mountain Mulga natives newcomers ofthe open forest oxley park park-like patches pine places plants Queensland rain rainforest rich ridges river robinson scrub seed sheoak shrubs slopes soil songline South Wales species Spinifex SrNSW Sturt summer swamp Sydney Tasmania templates thick thinly timber totem trees Uluru valley vegetation vol1 wallaby wattle wooded wrote yams