Dark Emu

Dark Emu
Bruce Pascoe

It is rare to read a book which so upends your historical notions of the place in which you live.

Although I went to an alternative school where I studied Aboriginal History, and despite reading about Aboriginal life and culture before, this book was a revelation to me.

The first revelation is the Aboriginal society was more technologically advanced than we have commonly been taught. They had forms of farming and housing which I was specifically taught that they didn't have. The book seems to imply that this means they should have been treated better, or that Aboriginal culture should have been accorded more respect. I didn't really understand that. Whether Aboriginal culture was more or less advanced doesn't really have any bearing on our common humanity, but I understand that this justification was very much wrongly used in the past so can understand why it is made here.

The real revelation to me was what this means if it is true, and I think the case in the book is compelling that it is. That Aboriginal society was so torn apart by European settlement, that they lost integral parts of their culture to such a degree that even they themselves largely forgot. It really shows the trauma and psychological dislocation that this clash of civilisations caused.

I think every Australian should read this book to correct the errors of history, and to understand that history. For me, to identify as an Australian is to be a part of a story going far back in time. The more we all understand and embrace that story, the more we can have a mindset from which to avoid recreating the errors of the past and to journey towards healing.