Books and Ideas at Montalto
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Myths about the lives of pre-colonial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have proven deeply entrenched. But in his 2014 book Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe struck a grievous blow to one of the most widely accepted assumptions of Australian pre-settlement history. He argued, and presented robust evidence drawn from the journals of European explorers, that Indigenous people were not hunter-gatherers at the time of colonisation.
‘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,’ he has said.
Dark Emu, which won Book of the Year at the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, also challenges existing narratives around housing construction, cooking and clothing prior to European settlement.
In conversation with Tony Birch, Pascoe discusses the writing, research and reception of his groundbreaking book. What does challenging the past of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people mean for the present?
Books and Ideas at Montalto series sound design and music: Jon Tjhia.