When we first read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, we too were captivated by this story. Many of our friends had read it too and said they felt good about the “fact” that the Australian Aborigines were not “just” a hunter-gatherer society when the British settled Australia in 1788, but they were in fact, as the Judges of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards claimed “..liv[ing] sophisticated lives…[in an] Aboriginal democracy [that] created ‘the 'Great Australian Peace’ on a continent which was extensively farmed, skilfully managed and deeply loved.”
However, a little digging into the “evidence” presented by Mr Pascoe has deflated our enthusiasm and the more we dig, the more disappointed we become. When it comes to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, we all know they are not “true”, but it is nice to promote the narrative, as it is all in a good cause and a delight to our children. However for adults, the accuracy of history is important and historical facts should not be fabricated, bent or manipulated to serve an ideological end.
As we upload our reviews and critiques in blog-posts over the coming months, let the reader decide as to whether Dark Emu is :
a revelation of a new, true history by Mr Pascoe, or just an attempt to re-write the history of ALL Australians to promote a mythical, pre-colonial Australia that did not actually exist.