Our history lessons centered on the discovery of Australia and its settlement when the first Australians, our Aborigines, were universally portrayed as nomadic hunter gatherers, representatives from a timeless primitive Stone Age society residing in temporary bark dwellings. Colonization had sought to impose another culture on to a much older landscape and its inhabitants to naively conclude unbridled universal enthusiasm; to jointly establish a new found utopian state.
But our first early farming practices of extensive tree felling and overgrazing raised water levels which gave way eventually to present day widespread salination. The first Australians were all viewed primitively; as if seen and filtered through the lenses of a early English camera, as inevitably their lands were stolen; as wars grew; they were viewed as savages. Scarcely as the ink dried on those first recorded misconceptions and inaccuracies they bercame permanently etched into our history.
But thanks to archeology and many new researchers the tide has finally turned.
One such voice is from acclaimed author Bruce Pascoe “It is on the public record that Aboriginal people were not feckless and innocent nomads but constructed complex housing; harvested grain, yams, eels, fish and other produce with sophisticated feats of engineering; and created the first and most enduring art, music and language in the world.
The social organisation looks amazingly like the first democracy, the first modern state where art and dance were devoted more time than the procurement of food.
We live in an incredible place but refuse to believe its history.
The eel aquaculture of the Western District of Victoria covers thousands of hectares and involves hundreds of kilometres of stone walls, weirs and tunnels burrowed through solid rock. The houses for these fishermen were set out in large villages and some of them could accommodate 20 or more people. They are like small town halls.
Grain was harvested in Queensland and from other grasslands: the fields of over 1,000 acres were carefully managed to maintain productivity. Settlers found this grain stored in stone silos and intricately sewn, vermin proof skin bags. Often the stored grain weighed over one tonne.
This is all on the public record in the first hand reports of Europeans. So why do we maintain the myth of a crude civilisation meandering hopelessly across the continent? Because we have to? Because to admit anything else defies our perception of ownership and legitimacy, our own perception of how we took the land?
We need to understand that there was a war in this country and the Indigenes lost it but not before conducting battles which forced the Europeans back on many fronts in the campaign. Aboriginal people did not just go away, disappear, die out from exotic diseases - they were defeated in war. That war is on the public record. The word “war” was used by our first governors and magistrates: it is there for any Australian to read.