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Bruce Pascoe

Author of Dark Emu

74+ Works 1,193 Members 28 Reviews

About the Author

Bruce Pascoe was born in 1947 in Melbourne, Australia. He is an Indigenous writer. His latest books include Fog a Dox (winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in 2013), Convincing Ground, Dark Emu, and Mrs Whitlam. He received the 2016 NSW Premier's Literary Awards Indigenous Writers Prize, show more Joint Winner. In 2018, he won the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature. It acknowledges prominent literary writers over 60 who have made outstanding and lifelong contribution to Australian literature. (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu (2014) 736 copies
Salt (2019) 31 copies
Fog a Dox (2012) 23 copies
Found (2020) 13 copies
Mrs Whitlam (2016) 11 copies
Bloke (2009) 10 copies
Shark (1999) 8 copies
Seahorse (2015) 8 copies
Ruby-Eyed Coucal (1996) 7 copies
Loving Country (2020) 7 copies
Australian Short Stories (1983) — Editor — 6 copies
Earth (2001) 5 copies
Ocean (2002) 4 copies
Fox (1988) 3 copies
Night animals (1986) 3 copies
Nightjar (2000) 3 copies
Found (2020) 1 copy

Associated Works

Macquarie Pen Anthology of Aboriginal Literature (2008) — Contributor — 57 copies
Skins: Contemporary Indigenous Writing (2000) — Contributor — 18 copies
Guwayu, for all times (2020) — Contributor — 15 copies
The Best Australian Stories 2013 (2013) — Contributor — 12 copies


Common Knowledge



6.5/10, the writing style and story was a bit flat, though I might not be the right person for this book, maybe a younger audience can enjoy this one.
Law_Books600 | Nov 3, 2023 |
A rather important, worthwhile read for all Australians. "Dark Emu" is one of several recent books (another being the comprehensive "The Greatest Estate on Earth" - a superior and more objective read, if I'm honest) seeking to shatter the many misconceptions about the way Aboriginal Australians lived before their land was taken over by the white man.

"Arguing over whether the Aboriginal economy was a hunter-gatherer system or one of burgeoning agriculture is not the central issue. The crucial point is that we have never discussed it as a nation. The belief that Aboriginal people were 'mere' hunter gatherers has been used as a political tool to justify disposession."

Pascoe outlines the anthropological, geographical, and anecdotal evidence for Aboriginal farming, trapping, house-building, clothing, fire-burning, and other interesting practices. This book is not academic, in that it primarily lists a variety of examples and claims without citing many sources, but, as Pascoe notes, this is an area where there remains great prejudice and ignorance today. The information I was taught as factual when I was a child portrays a fairly simplistic view of the Aboriginal tribes, and it's truly fascinating to gain an insight into the rich culture that existed in the country long before the white man. Pascoe sees the best possible answers, of course, and his ideology can be frustrating when it replaces more even-keeled thought. But perhaps this is better seen as a work of passionate non-fiction rather than academia. Australia has a long way to go before equality is achieved, and recognition of this sort can only help.
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therebelprince | 20 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
As I read Dark Emu, I felt that it was an important book, but also in many ways a frustrating one. It's important because it overthrows much of the disinformation about pre-invasion Aboriginal Australian society that is given to Australians all the way from primary school to adulthood. We were told that Indigenous people were hunter-gatherers, but in fact in many places they farmed; we were told that they were nomads, but in fact in many places they were sedentary, or moved only rarely; we were told that they lived in primitive humpies, but in fact they built large, secure shelters that required skill to build and were part of their social fabric. All of this is tremendously important because it changes how we think of the invasion of Australia and Australian Indigenous cultures as they exist today. It's also important because, as Pascoe eloquently points out, if we allow it to, Aboriginal knowledge can help us learn how to live in in Australia today without degrading our environment. But that won't happen if we try to only access the technical knowledge. We need to understand the way Aboriginal societies made decisions, co-existed and thought in order to understand the kind of sustainability they achieved.

The frustration comes from two sources, one of which is no fault of the author's. Although Pascoe has found many interesting accounts of early contact, there is just so much that we don't and can't know. As part of the attempted genocide of Australia's first peoples there was a policy of diminishing and erasing Aboriginal achievements and culture. Much of what was erased can never be recovered, both the technical knowledge and the cultural and spiritual. This loss haunts the book, so that much of Pascoe's commentary is necessarily partial or speculative.

The latter frustration just comes from the fact that this book is not all it could be. Ideally, this should be a tour de force, a magnum opus. Consider the coherence and scope of a book like Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. Regardless of what you think about it's premises or its conclusions, it hangs together and puts together a forceful argument that is entertaining to read. Dark Emu is instead partial, somewhat repetitive and occasional awkwardly written. Pascoe talks only a little about the fact that the popular image of pre-invasion indigenous societies is in fact an image of post-invasion communities massively diminished by land theft, violence and disease. On that last point, there is nothing, or almost nothing, in the book, whereas it would have been interesting to learn whether it was true that many communities were essentially post-plague before they were even invaded.

Of course this second frustration is a harsh one. Jared Diamond was able to make Guns, Germs and Steel a magnum opus because he had the tenure and detachment to write it at leisure. Pascoe is amid the wreckage of a war that continues to be fought, sifting through evidence that has been destroyed at every opportunity.

So I was certainly able to get over my frustration in order to find the powerful arguments and evidence in this book both moving and challenging to my world view. I'll finish with two quotes which summarise the challenging notions that I'll take away from this book:
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were on the same cognitive trajectory as the rest of the human family, albeit in a different stream and a unique channel in that stream."

"It seems improbably that a country can continue to hide from the actuality of its history in order to validate the fact that having said sorry we refuse to say thanks." [I interepret this as our refusal to say thanks for their custodianship of the land we now live in]
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robfwalter | 20 other reviews | Jul 31, 2023 |
Bruce Pascoe's book is a much-needed exposition of the realities of indigenous society and economy at the outset of British colonisation. He presents incontrovertible evidence that the Aboriginals had sophisticated systems of agriculture, aquaculture and housing. For somebody such as myself, raised on the notion of Aboriginals as nomadic hunter-gatherers, this is a head-snapping and sobering correction to one's assumptions.

Some of Pascoe's most riveting examples involve the Brewarrina fish traps, which are arguably the oldest man-made structures on earth. A detail that left an indelible impression on me was a map showing the extent of Australia that early white explorers described as growing grain when they first encountered them, overlaid with the far smaller extent of grain farming today. The message is unmistakeable; indigenous agriculture was able to produce thriving grain crops in the areas that we now romanticise as the arid and inhospitable Outback, which was only made so by the rapid destruction of the soil caused by the exotic animals that the colonists introduced.

Pascoe makes a solid argument that Australia's economy can benefit greatly if we recognise this achievement instead of perpetuating the hunter-gatherer myth, and try to change our existing agricultural practices to re-introduce crops such as yam daisy, kangaroo grass and native rice, as well as growing a commercial kangaroo meat industry, drastically reducing the damage done by cattle and sheep. This is a both an entrepreneurial opportunity and a means of placing indigenous culture and knowledge at the centre of our economic planning, which should not be missed. This book is a must-read for any Australian.
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gjky | 20 other reviews | Apr 9, 2023 |



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