The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia

Author(s): Bill Gammage


Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised. For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. We know Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and now we know how they did it. With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, The Biggest Estate on Earth rewrites the history of this continent, with huge implications for us today. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience. And what we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.


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Explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness, revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people.

Winner of ACT Book of the Year Award 2012 and Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History 2012 and Victorian Premier's Literary Award - Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction 2012 and Queensland Literary Awards: University of Southern Queensland History Book Award 2012 and Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards, Individual Category 2011. Shortlisted for NSW Premier's Literary Award Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction 2013 and ABIA Australian General Non-fiction Book of the Year 2012.

"This bold book, with its lucid prose and vivid illustrations, will be discussed for years to come." --"Australian Book Review"

Bill Gammage is the author of The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War.

Contents Illustrations Thanks Sources Abbreviations Definitions Foreword by Henry Reynolds Australia in 1788 Introduction: The Australian estate 1. Curious landscapes 2. Canvas of a continent Why was Aboriginal land management possible? 3. The nature of Australia 4. Heaven on earth 5. Country How was land managed? 6. The closest ally 7. Associations 8. Templates 9. A capital tour 10. Farms without fences Invasion 11. Becoming Australian Appendix 1: Science, history and landscape Appendix 2: Current botanical names for plants named with capitals in the text Notes Bibliography Index

General Fields

  • : 9781743311325
  • : Allen & Unwin
  • : Allen & Unwin
  • : 1.0478
  • : June 2012
  • : 245mm X 172mm
  • : August 2012
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Bill Gammage
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : 305.89915
  • : 384
  • : illustrations