Aboriginal land management

Dr Woodforde comments in his diary entry for Wednesday 14 September on the large number of trees which have been burnt. He speculates that this is due to ‘the electric fluid’ (lightning), rather than ‘as some have said, to the burning of the bush by natives’. His argument is not, finally, conclusive, but it does demonstrate some knowledge among the colonists of a major Aboriginal land management practice.

Aboriginal people of the Adelaide region, including the Adelaide plains and Fleurieu Peninsula, used fire to manage vegetation, burning selectively during summer to encourage the growth of grasses favoured by game (‘kangaroo grass’) and manage the distribution of shrubs and trees. Recent scholarship goes further, arguing that the landscape that Europeans encountered (and frequently compared to a ‘park’) was the result of Aboriginal land management. This approach argues that Aboriginal land management involved the careful and systematic application of in-depth knowledge of plants and animals, using fire to ensure a plentiful, convenient and predictable supply of both plant and animal foods throughout the seasonal cycle.

reference: Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia, Allen & Unwin, October 2011.

Share this page:

Comments or Questions:

No comments yet.