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Dark Emu: Bruce Pascoe and Tony Birch in Conversation

Listen to Dark Emu: Bruce Pascoe and Tony Birch in Conversation

In conversation with Tony Birch, Bruce Pascoe discusses the writing, research and reception of his groundbreaking, celebrated book Dark Emu – which won Book of the Year at the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. What does challenging the past of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people mean for the present?

Photo of Tony Birch and Bruce Pascoe

Tony Birch and Bruce Pascoe — Photo: Gemma Rayner

Myths about the lives of pre-colonial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have proven deeply entrenched. But in 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. The book also challenges existing narratives around housing construction, cooking and clothing prior to European settlement.

Presented in partnership with Yirramboi.

Who?

Portrait of Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe is a Bunurong, Yuin and Tasmanian man born in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. He is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative of southern Victoria and has been the director of the Australian Studies Project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission. Bruce has had a varied career as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, barman, fencing contractor, lecturer, Aboriginal language researcher, archaeological site worker and editor. His book Fog a Dox won the Young Adult category of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. His most recent book is Dark Emu: Black Seeds: agriculture or accident, which won the NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award in 2016.

Portrait of Tony Birch

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of Ghost River, which won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and three short story collections – Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People.

Tony is a frequent contributor to ABC local and national radio, and a regular guest at writers’ festivals. He lives in Melbourne and is a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.

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