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Dark Emu

Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?
Narrated by: Bruce Pascoe
Length: 5 hrs and 36 mins
4.8 out of 5 stars (1,678 ratings)

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Editorial Reviews

What you thought you knew about pre-colonial Aboriginal Australia is wrong. Learn the true history of Australia’s first people in Dark Emu. Author Bruce Pascoe lays out the compelling case that Aboriginal culture was far more rich and advanced than we’ve been led to believe, crafting a work that has won two NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Book of the Year and the Indigenous Writers’ Prize. 

Drawing from accounts from some of the first settlers to arrive in Australia, including Charles Sturt and Thomas Mitchell, Pascoe shares evidence of advanced agriculture, engineering and architecture that challenges the fraught concept of Terra Nullius. One of Australia’s most esteemed writers and an advocate for Australia’s Aboriginal people, Pascoe narrates his own work with heart, honesty and expertise.

Publisher's Summary

A completely accessible, compelling and riveting account of pre-invasion Aboriginal agricultural systems.

Dark Emu argues for a reconsideration of the 'hunter-gatherer' tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and attempts to rebut the colonial myths that have worked to justify dispossession. Accomplished author Bruce Pascoe provides compelling evidence from the diaries of early explorers that suggests that systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history, and that a new look at Australia's past is required.

©2014 Bruce Pascoe (P)2017 Bolinda audio

What listeners say about Dark Emu

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Thanks Bruce, I’m sorry and thank you.

You opened my eyes. I’d heard bits from time to time over the years that our first people were more sophisticated than we were taught at school but I’d had no idea of this. I’m angry that our texts were redacted to support terra nullius. I’m also very conscious that my own family on both sides took up land that was given to them by the government although it wasn’t theirs to give. I’m sorry, and thank you.

29 people found this helpful

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Important book, but read critically

A very interesting book. It's safe to say that many aboriginal groups cannot accurately be described as solely hunter gatherers. However, the author stretches the evidence further than is warranted in many places. For instance, he cites the lack of archaeological evidence of large scale warfare as showing that aboriginal people never engaged in group-on-group conflict. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This sort of Rousseauian fantasizing persists throughout the book. The final chapter begins with an anti-European screed - wondering aloud whether China would have been a better colonial power (the actions of modern China to its neighbours puts the lie to this) and implies at multiple points that Aboriginal people should have more rights than other Australians to 'make up for dispossession'. The chapter somewhat redeems itself with its environmental message at the end. We have a lot to learn from the first Australians about managing the land, but this book often uncritically places them on a pedestal, and seems to think they are exempted from the sorts of psychological flaws that characterise the rest of our species; territoriality, aggression, dominance hierarchies and leader worship. A more balanced and nuanced view would have been appreciated.

26 people found this helpful

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A must read

The most important book you're going to read this year. That's a big call to make in early February but I'm making it. The fact that it took me five years to hear about this book says everything. I don't know if it's on any education syllabus in this country but it should be. Every Australian needs to read this book. I listened on Audible (an easy, five hour listen) and am going to buy a couple of physical copies. One to keep at home to highlight and underline and one to keep in my classroom. Hell, I should buy a box of this book and give a copy to everyone I know. There are so many incredible quotes (which I'm unable to share with you because, Audible) but it is such an accessible collection of eye witness accounts of Aboriginal agriculture, architecture and society at the time of first contact with Europeans. I can't believe that the observations of Burke and Wills and so many others are not more well known. My mind was blown by the depth of my ignorance. I started listening to this book on a Monday morning and I was telling my class parts of what I had learned by Monday afternoon. If you're only going to read one book this year, make it this one.

21 people found this helpful

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paradigm shifting

growing up in Australia and going through the public school system, I have learnt a great deal from this book. it tells a story fundamentally different than what I was brought to to believe. I am thankful for this as to improve my once very ignorant appreciation of Australian aboriginal historical culture. this should be read and studied in schools in Australia

38 people found this helpful

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brilliant book!

every Australian should read this book! how is this kind of information not more available...

12 people found this helpful

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Bland content and Bland voice

I really wanted to give this audio book a go, however found that the author was bitterly pushing the message of the book. There was insufficient evidence of most things covered in the book and that is also where it falls flat. Unfortunately I will be returning this book.

11 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

I was interested but was unable to align it as a truthful account. The reader/writer's interpretation of explorers' diaries was taken out of context and delivered in a sarcastic tone of voice, proving nothing and detracting from the whole purpose of the book. It proved to be 5+ hours of my life wasted.

10 people found this helpful

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Interesting information overshadowed by bias

While the book puts forth an abundance of interesting evidence surrounding indigenous life before colonisation the author throws a lot of his own exaggeration and prejudice in the mix.

10 people found this helpful

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Revealing account of aboriginal achievements.

Bruce Pascoe has written a superb account of the achievements of Australian aborigines in the thousands of years before European occupation of this continent. I have heard for years that they were more highly developed than often thought, but this was mostly couched in vague generalities. Pascoe has looked through journals of explorers and early settlers, not to mention evidence from within aboriginal communities, finding many observations confirming that the aborigines were not nomads, but had systems of agriculture, fish trapping and house building. This has been airbrushed out of Australian history, as if it suited European Australians to believe that the aborigines were primitive people, almost 'savages'. Pascoe also reads his book extremely well. We are much in his debt for writing it.

9 people found this helpful

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Fascinating book

I learnt things I never knew about Indigenous Australians. Use of primary sources was persuasive.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-09-2018

An immensely valuable contribution to the conversation

Thank you for reinforcing my respect for indigenous Australians and for expanding my knowledge on how our landscape has come to be.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-06-2020

A History I never Learned

I’ve grown up loving history, recent events inspired me to learn about our own, Australian Indigenous History. Information in this book is exciting, captivating and something I will be sharing with people in my life Highly Recommend this book!

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  • Tom Dawkins
  • 24-02-2020

Brilliant, accessible, essential

This is a eye-opening and mind-expanding history of Australia. It's exhilarating to learn vital new insights into Aboriginal society and technology, heart-breaking to realise how much has been lost and inspiring to consider what a future Australia could look like once we embrace and honour this history and wisdom. Essential reading or listening for every Australian. It's great to have the author reading it too, which is not always the case with audiobooks.

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  • Ross
  • 04-02-2020

Global must read

Provides an expanded of human history and future. The past is not what is taught in schools.

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  • Tanya Batt
  • 03-02-2020

Enlightening

This books reveals what has been invisible and asks us to consider who ‘the story’ serves. I hope I live to see this kind of thinking integrated into the Australian consciousness. I am humbled by my own ignorance.

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  • Brodie
  • 15-03-2019

The truth hurts.

Essential listening for every Australian teenage upwards. If we can change we should . A timely reminder that it is not too late.

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  • Neil
  • 18-07-2018

Vital Australian Aboriginal History.

A tectonic shift in anthropology. Reveals knowedge of human history and development that should be known by all peoples of the world.

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  • Philip I. Kyson
  • 12-06-2017

Amazing eye opener

Another example of our commonly known history being false. This wonderful book goes someway in correcting that criminal fact.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-07-2019

very interesting

should be in the school curriculum, calmly unpacks some very important issues in a convincing and thoughtful manner

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  • Louise
  • 26-11-2018

Wow!

This should be compulsory reading for every child (& adult) in Australia. Massive respect for our indigenous people! This is so wonderful to get this information out there. We need to be learning more from, and consulting with, our country’s traditional custodians. Who knew.. and why weren’t we taught this during our school years?! Well done Bruce Pascoe. I’m sharing this as much as I possibly can.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-09-2017

Captivating and Stirring

A truly fantastic audiobook narrated by the author Bruce Pascoe. I think I put even more value to his words as he was the one reading them and emphasizing as he would normally in conversation. He made it a pleasure to listen to.

The numerous examples of indigenous peoples farming the land was so refreshing to hear. FINALLY the truth is coming forward and I look forward to our shared history being reframed.

Whilst I loved the book, the reality is I came to tears on a number of occasions. To hear through the writings of those first settlers who gave such little value to our ways, how blinkered they were to our intimate knowledge of the land and how they systematically destroyed every opportunity to allow our peoples the right to care for boodja (country) is absolutely heartbreaking. I must admit I feel agrieved. I am going to need some time to process my initial reaction so I can channel that energy into helping to make a difference.