Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australians must learn from Aboriginal culture, to survive in this land

there can never be a return to the pre-1788 situation, his cry is that we must redouble our efforts to understand it and learn from it 

We have a continent to learn. If we are to survive, let alone feel at home, we must begin to understand our country. If we succeed, we might one day become Australian’. 

book-biggest-EstateThe answer to burning questions, Online opinion, By Roger Underwood, 29 Nov 13 “…………The Biggest Estate on Earth, subtitled How Aborigines Made Australia is a large and beautifully presented book. The author, Bill Gammage, is well-known in historical and literary circles, regarded by many as the foremost historian of Australian participation in the First World War. Gammage’s capacity for painstaking research and careful scholarship, formerly directed at military history, has now been turned to the Australian landscape and Aboriginal land management. The result is compelling.

He rejects the view that Aboriginal people were backward and uncivilised, or that they were people who “trod lightly on the ground” as a minor component of the ecosystem. Instead, he argues that Aboriginal people were skilful, determined and experienced land managers who were active across the breadth of the Australian continent and Tasmania, operating to a strict set of rules (‘The Law’) about what areas must be burned, when, how, for what purpose, and by whom. They not only knew how to manipulate the Australian landscape and biota to optimise their food resources, but they knew how to sustain pleasing and safe living conditions, and to facilitate their comfortable life style and their spiritual demands.

As Gammage demonstrates, the use of fire by pre-1788 Australians was no random or careless fire-lighting; it was a calculated and careful program of deliberate and well-managed burning, the techniques and practices for which had been perfected over millennia, and become deeply embedded in cultural law. The beautiful and provident landscapes discovered by the first Europeans from one end of Australia to the other, and described by so many of them as being “just like an English nobleman’s estate”, was an intensely managed landscape … and the management tool was fire……….

Gammage’s final chapter is quite remarkable. This is an almost stand-alone essay, entitled Becoming Australian and in it he pays tribute to the Aboriginal achievement in their management of the Australian landscape and biota, and of what has been lost since 1788. He does not need to dwell on the costs that have resulted from the abandonment of the Aboriginal approach. These continue to mount as we speak, as modern Australians persist in trying to overlay a European concept of land management onto the Australian environment … or, just as futile, to apply the American approach, attempting to try to suppress intense fires in heavy fuels. And yet while he recognises that there can never be a return to the pre-1788 situation, his cry is that we must redouble our efforts to understand it and learn from it … not just for community protection but to sustain our forests, woodlands, tropical savannas, rangelands, deserts and rainforests. The book concludes with the lines: “We have a continent to learn. If we are to survive, let alone feel at home, we must begin to understand our country. If we succeed, we might one day become Australian’. With this statement, Gammage presents a challenge which goes to the very heart of land management in this country……..

abandoning the way in which this landscape was managed by Aborigines, modern Australians set themselves an enormous challenge: how to survive and prosper in a bushfire-prone environment. And, as they point out, it is not just a question of human survival. How at the same time can we sustain a beautiful, healthy and provident bushland?

At least part of the answer, according to Adams and Attiwill in their new book Burning Issues, (subtitled Sustainability and Management of Australia’s Southern Forests) is through the planned use of fire. Not only will this allow more effective wildfire control, the authors argue, it will also result in healthier and more resilient forests……..http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=15780

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November 28, 2013 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Resources

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