Hoax Springs Eternal

If you have wondered for the umpteenth time just who are the “elders, past, present and emerging” whom we all are meant to acknowledge, it might surprise you that Aboriginal Australians also ask themselves the same question. The earnest declarations issued at the commencement of every event by community leaders, corporate spokespeople and by concert hall voiceovers give no hint that “elder” is a highly contentious title. Conferred in a variety of ways by numerous indigenous groups, who do not recognise each other, they have no agreed-upon system or authority that recognises a legitimate “elder”. The definition of “elder” is itself subjective, making its practical force rather difficult to implement.

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This was the finding of a 5000-word report by PwC, which was hired by the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission in December 2019 to help them determine who was an elder. After consulting 201 elders in nineteen workshops, “80 per cent of those consulted wanted a way to challenge spurious elders”, which not only turned out to be impossible, it called into question just how reliable were the 201 elders consulted in the first place!

This is but one of the many Monty Python moments that jump off the page of William Lines’s Romancing the Primitive: The Myth of the Ecological Aborigine which can be ordered here).In penning this tour de force, Lines has launched a warts-and-all revelation of what lies beneath the public personae and the hollow orthodoxies that have moved from edgy continental philosophies into the mainstream of urban Australia. It is essential reading, for what is clear is that the elevation of indigeneity in the secular West has become an unquestionable public religion. Aided and abetted by an academic class of “scholars”, who differ enormously from the original anthropological observers who meticulously recorded Aboriginal life from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, the new breed is conspicuous for its embrace of myth and storytelling in place of objective scrutiny, description and analysis.

At the centre of this myth is the ecological Aborigine, a confected image of indigenous man who is at one with the environment, a secular equivalent to the biblical Adam in the Garden of Eden. The difference, and it is a big one, is that in place of the Western tradition’s Adam, who stood at the beginning of time and whose fate was to eat from the tree of knowledge and thereby lose his primordial innocence, the newly minted primitive signifies the opposite.

In contrast to Western man’s short-lived Edenic existence, which launched him on a curious and relentless search for knowledge, we are told Aboriginal culture is eons old, “the longest continuous culture in the world”, which had no need of a similar quest for scientific knowledge and technology. It was and is a culture sufficient in itself, and it still stands unchanged, in stark contrast to Western civilisation’s forward thrust. As environmentalists continually remind us, it is Western civilisation’s progress that has destroyed and depleted the world, and is in need of “the primitive”.

Lines, who is a conservationist, when he is not a writer, poet and carpenter, is a practical man. He sees through a great deal of the cultural fluff and nonsense that proffers “traditional knowledge”, couched in orally transmitted stories, in place of the hard sciences that conservation requires and indeed has benefited from for decades. Traditional knowledge is not only “sacred” and therefore unquestionable, untested and unproven, today it is also highly politicised. Perhaps most troublesome is its spurning of the concept of “wilderness” as a Western notion, sending the leading conservationist organisation, the Wilderness Society, into a spin as it attempts to embrace the new religion of aboriginality.

How we have landed in our current mythic universe, where the urge to merge with a simpler, pre-literate, pre-modern, pre-scientific culture, is not a story unique to Australia. It has a long history and its frequent recurrence makes it either inevitable or, at the very least, a challenge to be stared down.

Lines takes us back to ancient Greece, where, ironically, many modern-day secular rationalists like to anchor themselves. But the Greeks had their version of “romancing the primitive” in Diogenes, who rejected traditional social and political arrangements of his day, donned beggars’ rags, made a virtue of poverty and bedded down in rough conditions in the marketplace. His desire to be a thoroughly autonomous individual, however, made this prophet of the Cynics reliant on handouts.

There were other philosophical schools that rejected the powers of the day, and the allure of the natural state, as pure and self-sufficient, had many takers. The first-century Roman historian Pompeius Trogus thought the ideal resided in the Scythians, whom he believed were a golden race that “lived on milk and honey”, while Tacitus idealised the northern Europeans, the Germani, as a people who were unconcerned with valuable metals, uninterested in labour and, he concluded, “have no needs”.

The fourth-century Bishop of Milan, Ambrose, also imagined a state of purity which, after all, is the biblical hope in a messianic age or Jesus’s Kingdom of God. But in addition to this future fulfilment there was also the haunting image of the past, where a pre-lapsarian Adam in the paradisiacal garden just might still exist in distant lands. The age of exploration aroused many such hopes. Lines refers to Eldad the Danite, a Jewish traveller in the ninth century who believed he encountered remnants of the lost tribes of Israel. My favourite example, who escaped Lines’s gaze, is the Dutch Jewish publisher Menasseh ben Israel, who wrote The Hope of Israel (1652), convinced that the indigenous people of South America spoke Hebrew and were the lost ten tribes of Israel. It formed part of a long rumination from many scholars on just who were the indigenous people of the New World.

Among them was Michel de Montaigne, a magistrate and mayor, administrator of his Bordeaux estate, father to six daughters and traveller. Upon encountering three Brazilian Indians brought to France, Montaigne was so impressed by their demeanour that he wrote an encomium to their “natural virtues” in contrast to his own corrupt civilisation. Of Cannibals (c. 1580) excuses their barbarity, because they were happy with their lot, and although ignorant of letters, science, magistrates, politics, properties, clothing, agriculture, and metal, they were, asserted Montaigne, innocent of “lying, treachery, dissimulation, avarice, envy, detraction, pardon”. In other words, these primitives were saints.

Turning a blind eye to shocking practices was par for the course by the time Jean-Jacques Rousseau, citizen of Geneva, turned denizen of Paris and close friend of the encyclopaedist Denis Diderot, wrote treatises on education and more. Placing his children in an orphanage, for example, did not stop him pontificating on how to raise children. Rousseau became the arch-critic of “civilisation”, which he believed was the origin of all the vices known to man, at the foundation of which were laws that “irreversibly destroyed natural freedom” and “subjugated the whole of mankind to labour, servitude and misery”. There was much more besides, but Rousseau’s tirades spewed resentments that saw nothing in society to compare to the state of nature: “nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man”.

The “true believers” in the noble savage had one thing in common: they were rather distant from the reality they were describing. Enter Watkin Tench, well read in the Enlightenment philosophes, including Rousseau, a veteran of the American War of Independence, who arrived on the First Fleet in New South Wales as an officer of marines. He was a keen observer, describing in detail the indigenous people he met, as Lines notes, “admiring but not romanticising Aborigines”. Although he was well aware of his own English prejudices, he was frank and furious about “the brutal violence with which the women are treated”:

The women are in all respects treated with savage barbarity, condemned not only to carry the children but all other burthens, they meet in return for submission only with blows, kicks and every other mark of brutality. In beating a woman, a man generally aimed at the head using a hatchet, a club, or any other weapon which may chance to be in his hand.

Regardless of the barbarities, which included infanticide and reported acts of cannibalism and the rape and spearing of women, the idealisation of pre-contact life proceeded apace and was indirectly aided by the anti-Christian French philosophes as well as the utopianists, such as Henri Saint-Simon and August Comte. Karl Marx was close on their heels, imagining a communistic society that would favour collectivism against individualism and abolish capitalism and social-economic classes. Religion, which the Jewish-born Marx and all communists after him believed preserved the old regime, also had to go. Marx was yet another example of the continental European who benefited in every way from the privileged class into which he was born, but was determined to tear it down brick by brick.

There were many who simply wished to escape from the perceived injustices of Western civilisation into a primeval Eden. A few hundred Australians, including teacher and writer Mary Gilmore, followed William Lane to his commune in Paraguay in the 1890s. A disaster of puritanism, dictatorship and starvation under the autocratic leadership of Lane, it nonetheless did not diminish Gilmore’s longing for a tribal utopia on her return home. She eulogised Aborigines in her later books of poems, The Wild Swan (1930) and Under the Wilgas (1932), which Judith Wright would echo in her poetry and in her environmental activism. Lines sees in this unhealthy mix of poetry and perceived guilt a drive to assuage the sins of the past by elevating Aborigines as “exemplars of a spiritual, sacred attitude towards the land … with responsibilities towards all that surrounded them [living] in a primitive Garden of Eden”.

Poets gave way to professors of sociology and anthropology, who advanced the notion of “culture” as a blanket term that grew more capacious as it became less defined: “Culture became a hyper-referential word subsuming knowledge, belief, art, technology, tradition and ideology.” In the New Age thinking of the 1980s and 1990s, “culture” became a synonym for “wholeness” and “harmony”, and was eagerly adopted by conservationists, not least the Wilderness Society, which proclaimed:

Wilderness in Australia is a land of living culture. From the rock arrangements in Tasmania older than Stonehenge to the paintings replenished each year that tell stories of the north, this country is Aboriginal land.

Not only did culture assume the size of a giant cornucopia of endless treasures, so too the Aboriginal claim on the entire landmass of the southern continent became a theme advanced by the Australian historian Bill Gammage in The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (2012). Lines takes particular issue with Gammage’s thesis that Aborigines had a unitary theology “mostly unknown to each other” of the dreaming, which commanded that “every inch of the land must be cared for”.

Not only do the widely spaced tribes, with different languages and “country” make complete knowledge of the continent unlikely, Gammage’s assertion that Aborigines “managed” the land imports a concept from contemporary boardroom parlance to hunter-gatherers, and ignores the recorded evidence of exploited resources, often wastefully, particularly after a period of drought and near-starvation. Even the environmentalist dogma that Aborigines used fire in a rational and systematic way is countered by a detailed factual analysis by Jenny Silcock and colleagues of 4500 records of early explorers who found no evidence of such a thing.

The most disturbing aspect of Gammage’s stated point of view is his rejection of science in favour of culture, which he claims “science has made a subjective decision to deny”.

A clever turn of phrase turns scientists into deniers, the morally blind, if you will. But for Lines, the shoe is on the other foot, as he recalls how people who deny the Holocaust, for example, are incapable of accepting the facts of history. Denying factual truth is the issue, and using the term in any other way, such as in “my truth”, is deceitful.

By now Lines is nearly apoplectic with rage, which is thoroughly understandable after delving into publications that purport to be scholarly but have abandoned scientific standards, and yet continue to receive accolades. None more so than Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (2014), which not only received the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, but prompted ABC presenter Annabel Crabb to proclaim, “So many examples of jaw dropping achievements on this continent which occurred pre-1788 and are under-lionised. Read and exult.” Although most serious scholars do not accept Pascoe’s suggestions that Aborigines were architects, engineers and farmers, even Peter Sutton, who refuted Pascoe’s claims in Farmers or Hunter Gatherers? has idealised Aboriginal life, disregarding the frequent bloody quarrels, battles and tribal warfare that marked its pre-contact history. Instead he focused on “the evils of colonialism”.

Chief among these evils is the claim that the English colonised Australia believing it was terra nullius, a view that Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton have argued falsifies Aboriginal history. But their claim itself is false. Lines points out that the term was foreign to Captain Cook, appeared in no dictionaries, and was invented in the 1970s. It referred to a territory inhabited by people without recognised social or political organisation. Terra nullius was used by Paul Coe of the Redfern Legal Service, who found the term in a 1975 dispute between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara. He deployed it in 1977 and lost his case, but when he appealed to the High Court, Justice Lionel Murphy in a dissenting opinion cited terra nullius as the accepted legal and historical explanation of Australian sovereignty.

Judges can change the course of history, and Murphy had a reputation for doing so. In my own area of expertise—cults in the 1980s and 1990s—I witnessed many academic colleagues who ignored the evidence of abuse on a massive scale and leapt to defend a plethora of cults. Rejecting out of hand the accounts of ex-members as “tainted”, they naively believed the leaders’ accounts. “They drank the Kool-aid”, in other words, which is ironic given that in 1978 Jonestown cult leader Jim Jones killed more than 900 followers in their Guyana jungle compound with Kool-aid laced with cyanide. Murphy, in a judgment that would be bemoaned around the globe by many ex-members of Scientology, gave the cult founded by L. Ron Hubbard the legitimate status of religion it sought.

During the early days of “California dreaming” which saw the rise of hundreds of cults and charismatic leaders, “the religion of indigeneity” also had a big role to play. Sweat lodges, peyote rituals and beaded headbands were the rage, and one mysterious anthropology student rode the crest of the wave with his account of his induction into the Yaqui way of mystical knowledge. The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda became a best-seller, and was the basis of his being awarded a PhD by the University of California. After it was revealed that the account was largely fiction, it did not seem to matter, least of all to the publisher, who sold millions of copies as an authentic guide to spiritual realisation.

Born Carlos César Salvador Arana, Castaneda is considered one of the fathers of the New Age. Today, that part of the world and its penchant for new religious movements still holds sway, and Australia has adopted from Canada official terms with legal force like “First Nations” and “traditional knowledge”. Indigenous wannabes are still emerging, and sometimes they are exposed, as was recently the case with the popular folk singer Buffy Saint Marie. Feather in her hair and possessed of an unusual vibrato voice that sounded like the Cree Indian she imagined herself to be, Buffy dismissed all evidence to the contrary, saying it is “my truth”.

So here we are in what could be called the “My Truth Age”, where the advent of primitivism uses spurious arguments and imagined “facts” to tear down all the great and good achievements of the West. And that includes the settlement of Australia by the English, who brought a way of life that many indigenous people quickly embraced as more comfortable, bountiful and peaceful than they had known. While no serious historian would whitewash the past, Lines is not prepared to erase it in favour of the new religion of the “ecological Aborigine” which serves neither the environment nor the Aboriginal people.

A final word about Lines’s turn of phrase, which is refreshingly frank and often sent me into paroxysms of laughter, with its unvarnished observations which we often see but dare not name in polite society, let alone in print. Lines is a poet so his economy of style cuts through the jargon-laden obfuscations of the academic class with its neologisms which few understand but which allow for endless declarations of “my truth”. Imagine how the latter will run riot in the forthcoming “truth commissions”. For as Lines has so thoroughly demonstrated, we will not be able to rely on the academic class to challenge a jot or tittle of it.

Romancing the Primitive: The Myth of the Ecological Aborigine
by William J. Lines

Quadrant Books, 2023, 239 pages, $39.95

From 1992 to 2018 Rachael Kohn produced and presented programs on religion and spirituality for ABC Radio National including The Religion Report, Religion Today, The Ark and, principally, The Spirit of Things from 1997 to December 2018. She wrote on Jacinta Nampijinpa Price in the January-February issue.

59 thoughts on “Hoax Springs Eternal

  • Searcher says:

    Most interesting to me is the pointing to the apparent falsity of Bill Gammage’s claim that aborigines systematically and frequently burned small areas of bush as a hunting practice, resulting in prevention of otherwise occasional monster fires. Also to read Rachael Kohn ssying that many aborigines preferred the Brits’ mod cons. Bob Murray says the same. Presumably it is at least partly true. Good article, thank you Rachael.

  • Maryse Usher says:

    First class article, thank you very much, Rachael Kohn. The frantic search and imainary discovery of Adam and Eve unexpelled and innocent in their Eden has made serious advances against reality in our mad, mad world.

  • GG says:

    Thankyou for the article. It’s time to once and for all, shut down this blatant lie of the “longest continuing culture in the world”. That title goes to the San people of Southeastern Africa, whose culture and people have sustained for over 200,000 years. Sometimes referred to as the bushmen of the Kalihari, they don’t just claim to have been continuous – they can prove it.
    Moreover western anthrolpologists (as distinct from western apologists for Aboriginal people) back them up. It’s all part of this elaborate tapestry of Aboriginal fraud, and it needs to be exposed along with the underlying racism towards the San people.

    • GG says:

      sorry, typo: anthropologists

    • PT says:

      Absolutely. They’ve been there for far longer than aboriginals have been in Australia.
      What they *really* mean is “most primitive”. The San use bows and arrows, whilst the Aboriginals do not. They also had more interaction with people from outside than the aboriginals did (prior to the 17th Century they had none).

    • geoff_brown1 says:

      I was told that “we should be proud to walk in the footsteps of the oldest living culture.” I pointed out that the San Bushmen were the oldest living culture, and the speaker became quite rude.

  • vicjurskis says:

    “As environmentalists continually remind us, it is Western civilisation’s progress that has destroyed and depleted the world, and is in need of “the primitive”.
    Lines, who is a conservationist, when he is not a writer, poet and carpenter, is a practical man. He sees through a great deal of the cultural fluff and nonsense that proffers “traditional knowledge”, couched in orally transmitted stories, in place of the hard sciences that conservation requires and indeed has benefited from for decades.”
    A quick skim of the book reveals that Lines is an extreme green wilderness enthusiast who believes man (in the inclusive sense) of any color has no place in the natural environment. Just as dangerous as Pascoe on the opposite extreme. The ‘benefits’ of the “hard sciences … for decades” since green academics took over have been increasing megafires, death and destruction, erosion, siltation and filthy emissions that aren’t brought to account because they are ‘natural’.
    The paleological and historical evidence is very clear that Aborigines changed fire regimes and vegetation about 50K-40K years ago, exterminating most of the megafauna and creating new open grassy ecosystems that need constant maintenance by mild fire. They survived through extreme climate change without boots or overalls let alone waterbombers, computers and junk science.
    Our greatest explorer/naturalist T.L. Mitchell described their systematic use of fire and the dramatic changes in vegetation when it was disrupted. Howitt described the consequences in our earliest megafires ~ 1820 and 1851.

  • Stephen Due says:

    My favourite anti-Romantic quote on this subject is from Thomas Hobbes, who famously described the life of man in a state of nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

  • Alistair says:

    Having exposed myself to a great deal of the early anthropological literature and then working with modern anthropologists doing clearance for geological exploration drilling, I was staggered by the extent to which modern anthropologists would blatantly lie to me about traditional Aboriginal culture when required . It was clear to me that anthropology was no longer a “scientific” discipline, but one of advocacy on behalf of their Aboriginal clients where they would readily – on demand – mount any spurious argument to advance any Aboriginal cause.
    Additionally, they have carved themselves out a monopoly on “expert evidence” on Aboriginal matters to courts, royal commissions, and the like, successfully denying all but anthropologists any right to give evidence. We saw how resolutely anthropologist Peter Sutton excoriated Andrew Bolt and Peter O’Brien for making comments on “Dark Emu” because they were apparently not qualified to speak – and yet all he did was effectively repeat their arguments. The “outrage” was that they had spoken at all, not that they had got things right. On the other hand Sutton’s criticism of Pascoe was very respectful and a civilized argument – more or less phrased as an academic dispute between two equally qualified professors, and one a white one and the other an “Aborigine” to boot.
    Unfortunately, there are zero to few anthropologists available who are prepared to mount any truthful counter arguments on behalf of the Australian people in court or elsewhere – thus Aborigines nearly always win.
    “Truth Telling?” It isn’t going to happen. Not on their watch.

  • GaryR says:

    It is so much easier to idealise when experience of reality is lacking. This was of course reflected in the difference between city and country voting in the recent referendum. Education may well have been a factor too, but this would have had more to do with avoidance of indoctrination.

  • Adelagado says:

    Constantly telling non-indigenous children that this is not really their country is psychological child abuse that will have terrible consequences for the kids and the country in the years to come. It shocks me that so many parents are blind to this.

  • Michael Mundy says:

    Shades of the Pocahontas Syndrome.

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    Imagine if we all lived that native life eschewing every advancement then there would be so few of us and food would be so scarce that wars would ignite albeit with sticks and stones and life would be miserable. No wonder the Aborigines looked so miserable, they were. Their life of no progress didn’t do them any favours and their women understood exactly what their dingos went through for they were treated no better. When too old to help provide for the family the elderly were left to die much like modern nursing homes except nowadays they are better fed.

    I’ll believe the naturalists are genuine when I see them living in the desert eating yams and melons. Until then leave us alone.;

  • Citizen Kane says:

    The ‘My Truth’ phenomenon in social discourse, again has its roots in the Postmodernist teachings and influence emanating from the Frankfurt School. The tilt to unfettered subjectivism, deeply entangled in Postmodernist theories, underpins the ‘My Truth’ perspective and the concocted retrospective histories that it is meant to represent. Such a perspective, which is routinely ingrained through education and contemporary cultural norms appeals to the narcissistic element in those individuals so captured and is always projecting from the individual subjective to the collective and back again, so that we have, ‘ I am a Black victim, so all Blacks must be victims’, mirrored by, ‘All Blacks are victims and I am Black, so therefore a victim’. It is a toxic and narcissistic paradigm that is the intellectual cancer of our age.

  • John C says:

    Lines said “people from the British Isles” colonised Australia. He includes in that dated term the many Irish people who came to Australia, most involuntarily. I don’t think many Australians of Irish descent would thank him for the term “British Isles”.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    It seems that I have to read William Lines to find the vital clue – how to distinguish the minds of the wishful thinkers from the minds of the doers and achievers, so that a sane point of agreement can be reached by debate.
    There is a present problem, with “the truth” now broadened to allow fantasy and storytelling. Personally, I like to retain the old “truth” and surrounf myself with people of like minds. It is becoming hard to find such people. Bless you, Quadrant people. Geoff S

  • Bernie Masters says:

    The author of this article appears to have no training or background in the sciences which may explain her ignorance about Aboriginal use of fire over thousands of years. Here in SW WA, the historical and environmental evidence is absolutely clear that Aboriginal people used fire exactly as Bill Gammage, Sylvia Hallam and David Ward have described in their various research reports. Her attempted denial of dozens of reports from early explorers of and settlers in SW WA is of great concern as it shows her mind is blinkered on the issue of fire, which is a great pity as it casts doubts on the veracity of her otherwise justified criticisms of people like Bruce Pascoe and similar false claimants.

  • Alistair says:

    Bernie … I think you should exercise caution when making broad statements about the past I noted this … The effects of fire on the native bush in Tasmania were noticed by the first French arrivals in 1772. Lieutenant Le Dez reported:

    “We noticed that the Diémenois [the Van Diemanlanders, that is, Tasmanian Aborigines] carry a firebrand … and at each time they stop, and often it is only for a moment, they make a fire and gather around it. It is astonishing how many places we have found where they have lit a fire and how much the woods are devastated by it. We have seen few trees which are not injured at the foot and it is the same throughout the whole Bay. ”
    Le Dez, Lieutenant, 1772. Quoted in Dyer, Colin. 2005, p34. The French Explorers and the Australian Aboriginal Australians 1772 – 1839. Queensland University Press.

    Not a total endorsement of traditional management by fire techniques from someone who actually witnessed the traditional practices first hand.

    • vicjurskis says:

      Tasmanian practices and management regressed after they were cut off by rising sea levels. Thousands of years later, European diseases exacerbated the problem. In 1831, Protector of Aborigines, George Augustus Robinson saw the consequences in northeastern Tasmania: “many of those districts which had been formerly peopled by the Aborigines are now unoccupied; the once resident tribes being utterly extinct, a fact which was evinced by the dense overgrown underwood”.
      Flinders described the consequences of the loss of Aborigines from Kangaroo Island. He contrasted the evidence of infrequent high intensity lightning fires and the dirty young forest full of standing and fallen dead trees against the open managed bush on the mainland.

      • Citizen Kane says:

        With intimate knowledge of Tasmania’s landscapes, and fire management within them, I can tell you that the Tasmanian Aboriginal fire regimes changed much of the Islands ecology into a far more fire prone one that what preceded them. The wet temperate rainforest in many parts has been replaced by a mosaic of buttongrass and heathland plains which aided grazing and hunting of large mammals/ marsupials and which are now one of the most fire prone imaginable. The button grass plains will burn a day after the snow has melted and the ground below still too bogey to walk through and will be ready to burn again with the same ferocity within a year of a previous fire. I can also share with you from close proximity at the time, that the last attempt to undertake cultural burning practices on Cape Barren Island just a handful or so years ago turned into an unmitigated disaster, overrunning two thirds of the island.

        • vicjurskis says:

          Please explain from your intimate knowledge how Aborigines converted rainforest to grassland and maintained it without killing themselves if it is explosive the day the snow melts away. Heath grows on sites physically and chemically incapable of supporting forest. Where did they find the experienced local elders to organise a ‘cultural burn’ on Cape Barren Island? I don’t have intimate knowledge of anything but i learnt mild, controlled, maintenance burning from my forestry elders. Since green academic ‘ecologists’ and fire chiefs took charge, the beautiful, healthy, safe and diverse forests of my youth have turned to explosive scrub with plagues of pests, parasites and diseases feeding on sick eucalypts. The experts have invoked the Climate Cop-Out to cover their derrieres.

          • Citizen Kane says:

            The mosaic of button grass heath and wet temperate rainforest exist side by side on exactly the same peaty soils derived predominantly from a variety of Limestone, Basalt and Dolerite substrata. There is no definitive soil type exclusively associated with Tasmania’s temperate rainforest, with vast ranges of soil PH and phosphorus content supporting the same PCT’s. Due to high rainfall, higher than the Daintree in parts, the nutrient profile is often quite poor due to leaching. Cape Barren Island has been given over to the Aboriginal community in its entirety by the Tasmanian government. Aboriginals are the only people who reside there. Prey tell, how did the Aboriginals of yore maintain a mild controlled maintenance burn when it inevitably escaped their oversight with the 40 knot plus winds that are weekly phenomenon in that part of the world. Whatever knowledge you think you have kicking around the bush on the ‘North Island’, you clearly have next to no knowledge of Tasmania.

            • Citizen Kane says:


              • vicjurskis says:

                Thanks very much Citizen.
                Please excuse my lack of knowledge. Perhaps you can explain how 3 completely different floristic and structural formations occur side by side on exactly the same soil. Also, how can the soil from “a variety of Limestone, Basalt and Dolerite substrata” be uniform? Is it on a dead level plain with no variations in microtopography and no drainage features? How then did the components from the different substrata become perfectly and evenly mixed? How can there be a vast range of pH and phosphorous in the uniform soil? How can there be different rainfall across the uniform plain causing different leaching of nutrients in the uniform soil?
                Maybe I can gain some understanding if you explain to me what are the “the same PCT’s”
                Please also explain the origin and history of cultural burning practices on Cape Barren Island. I’m very interested to find out about the “Aboriginals of yore”. All I can find on Wiki is that “Today, the residents of Cape Barren Island consist of an Aboriginal community of approximately 70 people. Most of the residents are descended from a community of mixed descent (European and Aboriginal people), who had originally settled on several smaller nearby islands but relocated to Cape Barren Island in the late 1870s”.
                Yes, I have very limited knowledge of Tasmania. I worked in the bush on the east coast for a short time in 1974/75 and have on a few later visits observed how open grassy forests have turned to dirty impenetrable scrub with dying trees.
                I’d very much appreciate further education via your intimate knowledge.

                • Citizen Kane says:

                  Lets work through this stepwise.
                  1/ The floristic and structural formations exist side by side due to the impact of Aboriginal burning regimes as I originally pointed out – leading to preferential fire adapted PCT’s over time (Eucalyptus dominated forests, button grass plains and heathlands) with repeated burning increasingly interrupting the pre-existing more widespread Temperate rainforest. It would be more accurate to describe this mosaic of radically altered and fire adapted ‘floristic’ communities (PCT) as being diffusely interspersed throughout the wet temperate rainforest in a ‘patchwork quilt’ manner. While these PCT’s would exist in cohabitation previous to the impact of Aboriginal burning regimes, these regimes had significantly reduced the tall woody vegetation in favour of very flammable button grass and heathland which has increased immeasurably due to the fire regimes at the expense of the species of mid and upper strata rainforest species i.e. large rainforest shrubs and trees, which in turn have also been replaced by Eucalyptus spp.
                  2/ The reference to the same soil derived predominantly from variously Limestone, Basalt or Dolerite substrata was a spatially defined reference. i.e. the differing PCT’s often all exist within a couple of hundred square metres, which in one part of Central and Western Tasmania (where Temperate rainforest dominates) is predominantly Limestone substrata while in a neighboring region (Valley, Ridgeline) it may be predominantly basalt. The peaty element is derived from the surface organic matter that is then laid down upon it. In both neighboring regions underpinned by distinctly different Geology and different soils with different pH and different phosphorus content still yield the same mosaic of PCT’s.
                  3/ Your reference to some imagined ‘dead level plain’ is not relevant.
                  4/ Western Tasmania experiences upwards of 3000mm per annum of rainfall (with mid to high altitudes experiencing significant annual snow melt on top of that) from a an almost relentless westerly airstream off the Southern Ocean. The further west you go the wetter it is. The small regional variations exist due to the relatively dramatic topography with windward and lee aspects of parallel mountain ranges having a significant role. But overall it the whole region is very wet and the soils no matter what the underlying geology are subject to significant leaching of nutrients. This is uniform and the overlying PCT, whether Wet temperate forest dominated by Myrtle, Sassafrass and Antarctic Beech immediately abutted by open button grass plain or open Eucalyptus forest ( largely but not exclusively due to the impact of Aboriginal burning regimes) makes little to no difference
                  in regards to that leaching.
                  5/ PCT is the commonly used acronym for Plant Community Type which is the master level floristic typology utilised to sub divide Australia’s diverse Bioregions.
                  6/ ‘Aboriginals of yore’ was just common vernacular to describe pre-colonial Tasmanian Aboriginals. And my question to you, which you did not answer was how did they oversee mild to moderate burns and prevent rapid and uncontrolled escalation of their fires given that 30 – 40 knot sudden wind change in Tasmania is commonplace (remember roaring 40’s and all that?)
                  7/ Are you suggesting you understand Aboriginal cultural burns in the Tasmanian context better than the inhabitants of Cape Barren Island?
                  8/ The dry sclerophyll forests of Tasmania’s east coast are not even remotely related to the ecologies I am talking about in the central plateau, ranges and west coast. Perhaps before further contribution you may wish to actually visit them and see for yourself what I am talking about – may I suggest the road out to Strathgorden dam as a good starting point.
                  All the best Vic.

                  • vicjurskis says:

                    Thanks again Citizen for sharing more of your intimate knowledge.
                    You’ve explained that –
                    There’s a “mosaic of radically altered ‘floristic’ communities diffusely interspersed throughout the wet temperate rainforest” created by “mild to moderate burns” by aborigines despite “rapid and uncontrolled escalation of their fires” with “sudden wind change”.
                    It has nothing to do with soil because “The mosaic exist[s] side by side on exactly the same peaty soils”.
                    And “neighboring regions underpinned by distinctly different Geology and different soils with different pH and different phosphorus content still yield the same mosaic”.
                    This is “largely but not exclusively due to the impact of Aboriginal burning regimes” 200 years ago.
                    “The inhabitants of Cape Barren Island … understand Aboriginal cultural burns [but their] last attempt to undertake cultural burning practices on Cape Barren Island just a handful or so years ago turned into an unmitigated disaster, overrunning two thirds of the island”.
                    All this has nothing to do with “dry sclerophyll forests of Tasmania’s east coast [which] are not even remotely related to the ecologies [you are] talking about in the central plateau, ranges and west coast”.
                    I guess the aborigines on the plateau hibernated in winter and had nothing to do with the others near the coast.
                    I’ve visited the “central plateau, ranges and west coast” a few times to “see for [myself] what [you are] talking about”.
                    Apologies for my ignorance. Your explanation is beyond my limited comprehension.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Vic, your attempt above to conflate what I have said by combining snippets of my comments out of their original context is laughable. Your response is that of a petulant and arrogant child who has been slighted. If you wish to run with the angle that your one summer on the east coast in the 70’s and a couple of visits since constituting a handful of days outweighs my experience of many decades of living, working and playing in Tasmania’s diverse ecologies then be my guest – it just points to your inflated misplaced arrogance.

                      Comments such as; ‘I guess the aborigines on the plateau hibernated in winter and had nothing to do with the others near the coast.’ are example of your disingenuous attempt at deflection as you have no meaningful riposte. Where did I say that the Aboriginals hibernated in winter and didn’t range to the coast? Did they drag the ecologies and climate with them when they went did they Vic?

                      The events on Cape Barren Island in 2016/17- a runaway firestorm that consumed he vast bulk of the Island on the back of a mild to moderate cultural burn is prime example of the myth of such burning practices. I note you have yet to provide any indication as to how the aboriginals controlled such burns in the face of rapid change in weather conditions.

                      Yes the Tasmanian Aboriginals utilised a ‘firestick’ regime of burning, but more often than not it lead to uncontrolled fires (the very notion that they could somehow be controlled is fanciful) that was noted by the first Dutch then French and British explorers who first laid eyes on Van-Diemens Land. This practice has led to dramatic changes to Tasmania’s ecology and played a contributing factor in the extinction of megafauna. If you wish to mythologize this practice along with the contemporary Urban aboriginals as some form of prescient landscape management, don’t expect the rest of us, including William Lines to just blindly follow along. You will no doubt find an ally in Uncle Bruce Pascoe.

                      ‘Apologies for my ignorance. Your explanation is beyond my limited comprehension.’ Apology accepted – just this once and yes it does seem demonstrable, unfortunately, that this is beyond your limited comprehension.

                  • vicjurskis says:

                    Arrogance and petulance indeed Citizen. This is in reply to your comment below from which you seem to have blocked a reply.
                    I haven’t claimed any intimate knowledge consequent to my brief visits.
                    I have referred to extensive paleological and historical evidence from many parts of Australia including Tasmania.
                    But I did see some ‘dry sclerophyll’ alpine ash woodland on the edge of the plateau which has turned to stunted forest in the absence of maintenance by mild fire.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Funny how that worked. There was no reply button, so I replied to a comment higher up and my reply dropped down to the right place.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Vic, I have made no attempt to block your reply as you assert, and I have had no role in the absence of a reply button.
                      As far as this thread is concerned you have referenced nothing but yourself.
                      I’m not sure there is such a word as ‘paleological’ although I understand you to be meaning Paleology – the study of antiquities. However, Paleontological references might look a little something like this.

                  • vicjurskis says:

                    Citizen, I wrote that you seemed to have blocked my reply, and immediately corrected myself when i managed to reply through your earlier comment.
                    No Citizen, we referenced 68 other publications in our article linked above, and where those included me as an author, they referred to many additional publications which didn’t. One had hundreds of additional references.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      And thanks, Citizen, for the additional reference from Tas that complements the others.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Vic, Thanks for confirming and accepting that Tasmanian Aboriginal burning practices dramatically altered the wet temperate rainforests of Tasmania leading to a more fire prone ecology exactly as the attached paper I referenced found.
                      Furthermore the megafire in Victoria of 1820 that you cite above is proof positive that millenia of Aboriginal burning practices did nothing to mitigate against such megafires, given that Melbourne was not settled until 1835 and only the most sporadic and furtive attempts by settlers from Van – Diemens Land had preceeded that from 1803 with no significant European impacts on land management in Victoria until after 1835.
                      Its ironic that you rail against the ‘Green Environmentalists’ – when it is exactly that cohort that so champions the myth of Aboriginal firestick regime as a land management technique with controlled and prescient outcomes – when it was nothing more than an aid to hunting practices.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Thanks Citizen, for the “proof positive” that you lack comprehension of history and ecology. The 1789 smallpox epidemic which swept from Torres Strait to Bass Strait disrupted land management by the Yowenjerre in South Gippsland, scrub invaded and the consequent megafire generated dense eucalypt forest.
                      I learnt how to burn from my forestry elders and i’ve seen healthy safe diverse forest across Australia turn to filthy sick explosive scrub after interference by green academics who now pretend to endorse ‘cultural burning’ and embellish basic knowledge and experience.
                      your claim that aborigines couldn’t control fire but used it to provide their ‘daily bread’ is incredible.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      What is incredible Vic, is the notion that Aboriginals could control wildfire introduced into the landscape when conditions turned unfavourable let alone at any other time. You have provided no credible evidence of how they did this – stamped it out with their feet I guess!
                      Furthermore, while the smallpox outbreak of the fledgling Sydney colony in 1789 is well documented and its impact on local Aboriginals in the Sydney basin, one wonders who chronicled the impact on Aboriginal communities from Torres Strait to Bass strait at this time?

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Your notion that aborigines couldn’t manage fire is incredible and you are incredulous Citizen, presumably because you have no skills or experience in managing fire. Aborigines had fires burning 24/7 through all sorts of climate and weather from freezing to extremely hot, dry and windy. including during the settlement drought at Sydney when there were 3 extreme fire seasons in a row and no megafires.
                      whitefellas documented physical and biological evidence of 1789 smallpox including scars and blackfellas told em about it too.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Now lets see Vic, I last stepped off a fireground just 6 weeks ago at the end of January. In November last year I lay witness to a fire expand almost 10 000 hectares within 24 hours on ground that was scorched with high intensity fire just 4 years earlier in the 2019/20 fires in Northern NSW. Of course, that could never of happened if a small tribal band of aboriginals had been there to stamp it out with their feet. All told I have spent thousands of logged hours on firegrounds in Tasmania and NSW including in the most remote terrain both jurisdictions have to offer including many hundreds if not thousands of hours on firegrounds in the Tasmanian South West Wilderness being flown in with all equipment by helicopters on a daily basis and operating on foot. I don’t recall running into you at any of these events?

                      You state that Aboriginals were ‘burning 24/7 through all sorts of climate and weather from freezing to extremely hot, dry and windy.’ – how do you presume to know? It’s likely the 1820 megafire of Victoria was started by Aboriginals as was documented by settlers in some of the early large and out of control fires in Tasmania.
                      You state that white fellas documented 1789 smallpox in Aboriginals of Bass Strait and Torres Strait, when the earliest such interaction could not have occurred until some 50 years later at the earliest for these regions. This is longer than the average lifespan for Aboriginals at that time.

                      You assert Aboriginals maintained controlled fires irrespective of weather conditions, yet you provide no credible evidence or even suggestion as to how they did this. As my recent experience above helps to demonstrate, this would not be possible unless they lived in a permanently blackened landscape.

                      As far as I am concerned your promotion of Aboriginal firestick practices as prescient ecological management and managed with full control is a myth of ‘Pascoesque’ dimensions and deserves an equal degree of incredulity.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Thanks Citizen, for clarifying that you have been involved in firefighting. There’s plenty of that these days because of lack of sustainable fire management. Your experience last November should have alerted you to the obvious fact that high intensity fires have very different consequences than deliberate mild burning. One of them being rapid growth of scrub = 3D continuous fuel.
                      I was delighted to hear traditional burning expert Victor Steffensen, who gained experience and knowledge with his elders in NQ, tell NSW koala inquiry during Black Summer that deliberate burning was required as soon as possible to control new scrub growth before it could develop.
                      Sixty years of real-world data from WA show that deliberate burning reduces the extent of wildfires in severe seasons, provided you burn at least 10% of the landscape each year.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Except that there was a conspicuous absence of pioneer species on the ground at this fire. The rapid return of canopy due to the intervening wetter than average years had led to natural thinning and subjugation of pioneer species such as juvenile wattle spp. After fire, pioneer species are almost always transient, and mid strata density returns to normal after Canopy rejuvenation. Sounds to me like you are confusing the aftermath of forestry clear felling or even mosaic thinning, where relatively rapid return of dense canopy is not possible – the introduction of pioneer weed spp such as Lantana is big problem under such settings due to its introduction and the ground/soil disturbance created by forestry operations. Attempting to transfer knowledge outside one’s realm of expertise will often lead to these mistakes. The same experience with fire also informs me that mild burns achieve nothing in terms of fire mitigation, fire can return to same ground within months after a mild to even moderate burn and all it achieves in the long run is a greater and greater preponderance of fire adapted species and a more fire prone ecology, which is exactly what the result of Aboriginal fire in the landscape over millennia has given us. Prescribed burns/ fuel reduction burning is an important part of fire mitigation and landscape management – but this is through the prism of asset protection. Myths around Aboriginals controlling fire in the broader landscape, are just that a myth – they would introduce fire but they had no means by which to control it other than to trust they had picked a favourable weather window.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Citizen, thanks for confirming that you lack understanding of sustainable fire management, firefighting and fire ecology.
                      Fire breaks or ‘asset protection zones’ can’t stop wildfires. You have to manage the landscape. Aborigines were blissfully ignorant of silly theories of succession. After their ancestors created diverse open grassy ecosystems with eucalypts and scattered shrubs, they maintained them for tens of thousands of years. Sometimes natural climate change beat them and dense mesic vegetation reclaimed areas that became too wet to burn.
                      But your claim of personal wisdom and experience that can challenge 40,000 years of paleology and more than 200 years of history is a bit of a joke.
                      There’s also a slight problem in your using your wilderness experiences to show that aborigines couldn’t manage fire.
                      I understand your nose is outta joint cos fauxborigines claim cultural knowledge of burning in Tasmania. But it seems you are part of the green bureaucracy that is just as disconnected from physical and historical and ecological reality.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Yet again Vic you seek to twist my words because you can’t mount a substantive reposte. I did not say ‘Firebreak’ I did not say Asset protection zone’ – I said that fuel reduction burns (Asset protection zones are generally striped of all woody vegetation) are strategically deployed through the prism of asset protection – not for managing ecologies per se. The RFS for instance is not in the business of managing ecologies but managing fire risk (to humans and their infrastructure).
                      The real joke here is that a blow in first generation Australian thinks he has more knowledge of Australia’s ecologies and Aboriginals than anyone else just because he spent a few years working in Forestry If I went to Lithuania and claimed to be the pre-eminent expert on the Balts, becaused I’d been cutting down a few local conifers – I would be laughed out of the room and ridiculed for such a misplaced ego – and thats exactly how I treat your Green Left Fauxboriginal mythology.
                      The more I think about it, the more I can’t help but think you and Uncle Bruce would make for good bedfellows and should consider co-authoring your next tome on Aboriginal mythology.
                      And I’m still waiting for any substantive documentation or description of how Aboriginals controlled fire and brought it back under control again once it had inevitably got away. Always talking around it and the mythology but never providing the concrete answers of how they actually controlled fires? And if you claim its because they started them with bark rather than kerosine torches I will laugh myself through to next week.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Thanks very much Citizen, for removing any doubt. You obviously don’t appreciate the simple fact that fire can be a friend if we use it skillfully to maintain ecosystem health, safety and biodiversity.
                      This “blow in first generation Australian [who] thinks he has more knowledge of Australia’s ecologies and Aboriginals than anyone else just because he spent a few years working in Forestry” certainly doesn’t claim more knowledge than anyone. But I’ve lit many beneficial fires and helped to control quite a few wildfires.
                      I’ve learnt a lot from my Australian elders, black white and brindle, as well as my Baltic elders.
                      I’m flattered that you’ve gone to the trouble of researching my history. But you’d be much better off learning how to light beneficial fires rather than challenging me to prove to you by “substantive documentation” that it can be done.
                      You don’t need to go to Lithuania to “be laughed out of the room and ridiculed for such a misplaced ego” just go and front anyone with knowledge and experience of sustainable fire management. There are still a few left in Australia.
                      Your allegation of my “Green Left Fauxboriginal mythology” is hilarious.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      And still after all that hot air not a single substantive description or any material evidence of how aboriginals controlled the fire they introduced into the landscape. If your definition of beneficial is repeated fire in the landscape leading to more fire prone landscapes – then sure mission accomplished.

                      I’m still involved in fire management, I’m surrounded by it. You on the other hand now seem primarily focused on self promotion.
                      No one has suggested fire is an integral part of Australia’s ecologies. That is self evident. What is pure fantasy is the suggestion that Aboriginals could introduce it into the landscape and at all times control it. The outcome of their fires was completely at the mercy of what subsequent weather ensued.

                      Just a tip for you Vic if you quick to dish out insults and happy to make character assessments don’t be surprised when you have it served right back at you, with interest!

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      Thanks for the tip Citizen. I admire your modesty in using a nom de plume whilst your intimate knowledge of fire management is delivering wonderful outcomes that ignorant aborigines couldn’t achieve.

                  • Citizen Kane says:

                    ….is ‘NOT’ an integral part….

                • Citizen Kane says:

                  Well since you cannot explain how Aboriginals controlled fire once they had introduced into the landscape we must now conclude it was through magical thinking.

                  • vicjurskis says:

                    Commonsense and familiarity. Minimum effort for maximum result. Burning as soon as there was enough continuous cured fuel. Filling in as shadier damper country dried out. Top-down, Into the breeze, Spots that gradually coalesced. Quite simple in an open grassy landscape flammable under mild conditions. Essential for people without boots or overalls.
                    Routine maintenace. Fuel wasn’t allowed to accumulate. No need for hazard reduction burning.
                    Now we have filthy scrub that won’t burn under mild conditions but explodes in severe conditions. Firestorms erupt from the wilderness. Experts can’t stop them with columns of fire engines and squadrons of waterbombers.
                    And you say aborigines had no idea.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      Seriously, is that your attempt to explain how Aboriginals controlled fire in the landscape by describing how they MAY have (let’s face it you don’t really know because you weren’t here) determined when to start them. That’s not controlling a fire Vic that’s just starting one – once again demonstrating that although you talk a big game on fire you really have no idea what you are talking about. Because we all no for instance that the wind never changes direction.I also note how prescriptive the conditions must be I.e. open forest and grasslands. Don’t see too much of that on the Eastern seaboard from the top of the escarpment ranges down to the. coast – nor was it like that prior to European arrival. You just live in a Pascoesque world of self delusion and magical thinking. So here is another invitation Vic to explain how Aboriginals controlled fire in the landscape in the dense forests of the eastern seaboard which is where the 2019 fires were located. Don’t want hear your guess work about how they started them – but I want to know how they controlled them. Bottom line is they couldn’t and they didn’t – they were at the mercy of prevailing weather conditions – sometimes likely favourable other times not leading to large conflagrations. Fire for Aboriginals was primarily an aid to hunting and not a ‘caring for country’ BS Green mythology you make it out to be. Your permanently blackened landscape-prescription is just the good ol redneck chop it down, rip it up, burn it down mentality dressed up in Green/ Aboriginal activist – caring for country pseudo science and authors like Lines can see right through the fraud.

                    • vicjurskis says:

                      I’ve done it by myself many times on foot with no equipment. Graziers did it routinely from horseback. Some Aboriginal people who learnt with their elders are demonstrating the same approach to people of all colours who weren’t brought up with it.
                      Lightning strikes in extreme weather filled in deep dark gullies on a longer cycle. The evidence was there in the vegetation. Megafires didn’t happen in managed landscapes.
                      European oldtimers described in great detail the consequences of disruption of Aboriginal burning.
                      I’ve seen the consequences of green ideology since the 1980s. Beautiful healthy safe and diverse forests have reverted to dirty explosive homogenous scrub. Hence the Climate Cop Out.
                      You have no idea.

                    • Citizen Kane says:

                      The 1820 mega fire occurred in a Aboriginal managed landscape – so you are wrong yet again. Early Tasmania settlers documented mega fires started by Aboriginals. You flap on about fires on pastural land but still avoid the question of how Aboriginals controlled fires in denser forests. You wouldn’t know a natural ecology if you tripped over it. You mistake a managed forestry coup for a natural ecology. Like many freshly minted Australians out of Europe where there is only sparse unaltered landscapes to be found, you think ecologies wouldn’t persist just fine without human intervention.. Just as Lines has pointed out in his book, there is a propensity for people such as yourself and Pascoe to romanticise the primitive to push an agenda. Yours is a scorched earth policy, (chop it down and tear it up and it that doesn’t work burn it) hiding behind fake Aboriginal mythology. You will be worked out and seen for what you are soon enough .

  • Bosun says:

    I think I’ve unlocked the mystery of “elders past and present”.

    My daily routine includes a walk along a country road. It wasn’t until I turned seventy, or there about, that drivers pulled up alongside me and ask if I was alright. At first it annoyed me until I realised they were just kind folk genuinely concerned about “elders” wandering around unattended early in the morning. The welcome to country seems to be “industrial level” concern for old folk.

    • vicjurskis says:

      well said. except a lot of the ‘elders present’ aren’t very old have no experience or knowledge of the old ways and are very well looked after. i respect my fairdinkum elders black, white and brindle. the way things r goin the ’emerging’ elders will have no knowledge or experience.

  • Jessie says:

    Thank you for a most interesting and informative read. Having not heard of Silcock I found her paper and have included details for interested Q readers.

    A lengthy extract here
    Silcock J et al Illuminating the dawn of pastoralism: Evaluating the record of European explorers to inform landscape change Biological Conservation V159, March 2013, p321-331

    and the full publication can be found here for free

    • vicjurskis says:

      Jessie, If you read the article you’ll find that Mitchell described Aborigines going to a lot of trouble to burn sparse dry grass to produce future green pick. Silcock’s and colleagues’ misrepresentation of their own data would have been identified by critical review had there been any.

  • wdr says:

    An excellent review and essay, needless to say. I have long thought that the Aborigines ought to pay reparations to the white man for bringing them from the Stone Age to the 21st century.

  • James McKenzie says:

    Our media is corrupt: I cancelled SMH then National Geographic as the later had feminism undertones.

  • Petronius says:

    There is a tendency to treat the the incursion of the British state into Australia as one event when in terms of the impact on the locals there was really three significant events which I call tsunamis as they came from the sea in large metaphorical waves.

    Tsunami 1:The impact of foreign infectious diseases which decimated populations (which started before 1788 by seafarers);

    Tsunami 2: the arrival of settlers with their predations on land, water courses and introduction of domesticated stock; and

    Tsunami 3: the impact of 18 c European modernism (science, politics, warfare, technology) which made the inhabitants tribal polity, survival practices, weapons and embedded spirit world seem starkly outdated.

    The shock of modernism as a consciousness changing thing, a demoralisation, probably did just as much damage to their way of life as the other two tsunamis and might be compared to the impact on us to the arrival of aliens from space with a science and technology a thousand years in advance of our own.

    • vicjurskis says:

      Spot on Petronius. There was not a single event. Maybe one Tsunami with the 1789 smallpox epidemic from Torres Strait to Bass Strait?
      The arrival of settlers was a long drawn-out affair.
      For example, Strzelecki saw the results of 1789 smallpox and the consequent ~ 1820 megafire that created the dense scrub of South Gippsland in 1840. Then there was Black Thursday 1851 before settlers started clearing the scrub in 1870s and discovered all the signs of prior Aboriginal occupation and management.
      After that AW Howitt documented all the changes that had occurred.

  • vicjurskis says:

    Lines, Silcock and Kohn shot themselves in their collective feet with this:
    “Even the environmentalist dogma that Aborigines used fire in a rational and systematic way is countered by a detailed factual analysis by Jenny Silcock and colleagues of 4500 records of early explorers who found no evidence of such a thing”.
    But Silcock et al wrote “Here, Mitchell noted that Aboriginal people made the most of hot winds “to burn as much as they could of the old grass, and a prickly weed which, being removed, would admit the growth of a green crop, on which the kangaroos come to feed” (18 May 1846).
    And: “Mitchell noted a grassfire in central Queensland, writing that ‘the extensive burning by the natives. a work of considerable labour, was performed in dry weather’ ( 13 September 1846), suggesting that, even
    prior to the introduction of domestic livestock, biomass was only sufficient to support large fires during dry windy spells and probably after good seasons”.
    What could be more rational or systematic than that?
    How misleading is this?:
    “Selectively plucking quotes from the journals can result in them being taken out of context. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is Mitchell’s musings that ‘Fire, grass. kangaroos, .and human inhabitants. seem dependent on each other for existence in Australia; for any one of these being wanting. the others could no longer continue’. This oft-quoted passage has been used to imply that most of Australia was regularly burnt and, indeed, dependent upon burning … This is not supported by Mitchell’s 1844-1845 journal which contains only occasional references to fire”.
    Silcock’s data confirmed that there wasn’t a lot of grass, fire or kangaroos in semi-arid QLD most of the time, but Aborigines burnt the cured grass whenever they could.
    That Silcock’s and colleagues’ misinterpretation got published in a reputable journal indicates a huge problem in the peer-review system.

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