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The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia - Bill Gammage

The Biggest Estate on Earth

How Aborigines Made Australia

Paperback

Published: 1st June 2012
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Winner of the Queensland Literary Awards 2012 - History Book

Book Description

Explodes the myth that pre-settlement Australia was an untamed wilderness revealing the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people.

Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.

For over a decade, Gammage has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire and the life cycles of native plants to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. We know Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and now we know how they did it.

With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, The Biggest Estate on Earth rewrites the history of this continent, with huge implications for us today. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires we now experience. And what we think of as virgin bush in a national park is nothing of the kind.

About the Author

Bill Gammage is a historian and adjunct professor in the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. He is best known as author of the ground-breaking The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

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The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia
 
4.3

(based on 10 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (3)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (7)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

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    (0)

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100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Deeply informative (9)
  • Well written (7)
  • Easy to understand (6)
  • Broad appeal (5)
  • Groundbreaking research (5)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Reference (7)
    • Gift (4)
    • Older readers (3)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Everyday reader (6)

    Reviewed by 10 customers

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    4.0

    Just started to read, but it is great so

    By Linda 1970

    from Kinglake, AU

    About Me Casual Reader

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Deeply Informative
    • Unique Interpretation
    • Well Written

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Reference

      Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

      I am just starting to read it. It was recommended, and I am interested on how burn-offs in the bush can help maintain it.

      Comment on this review

       
      4.0

      Must read for land managers

      By Jason

      from Pilbara

      About Me Casual Reader

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Deeply Informative
      • Easy To Understand
      • Well Written

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Gift
        • Reference
        • Special Needs

        Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

        A good read for all land managers (farmers, pastoralists and conservation managers), related government agencies (all levels of government), environmentalists and bush fire agencies.

        Through detailed descriptions of the land and aboriginal land management of 1788 the book gives insights into how land can be better managed now.

        Comment on this review

         
        4.0

        Excellent information

        By Green Davey

        from Perth AU

        About Me Everyday Reader

        Pros

        • Broad Appeal
        • Deeply Informative
        • Easy To Understand

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Gift
          • Reference

          Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

          Bill Gammage sets the record straight on Aboriginal management of fire. This contrasts with the eco-mythology presented by some other writers, academics, and environmentalists. At a public talk in Perth, an Aboriginal member of the audience thanked him for his effort. I hope this book finds a place on the shelf of most Australians - it would be a useful reference for school and university libraries.

          Comment on this review

           
          5.0

          Great Book on an important subject.

          By Penguina

          from Gold Coast

          About Me Everyday Reader

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Broad Appeal
          • Continually Relevant
          • Deeply Informative
          • Easy To Understand
          • Groundbreaking Research
          • Unique Interpretation
          • Well Written

          Cons

            Best Uses

              Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

              Could change the way that we look at the Australian Bush.

              Comment on this review

               
              5.0

              It is vital for our future learning

              By Bruce

              from Woodend

              About Me Everyday Reader

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

              • Broad Appeal
              • Continually Relevant
              • Deeply Informative
              • Easy To Understand
              • Groundbreaking Research
              • Well Written

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • Older Readers
                • Reference
                • Travel Reading

                Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

                This book presents great insights into 'The First Australians' and how we can and should learn from them. It should cause environmentalists to rethink how we prepare for bushfire and to not stop burning in order to preserve that which, has for thousands of years, been cared for via careful burning.

                Comment on this review

                 
                4.0

                A must read for all thinking Australians

                By Magpie

                from Canberra

                About Me Everyday Reader

                Verified Buyer

                Pros

                • Deeply Informative
                • Groundbreaking Research
                • WELL RESEARCHED

                Cons

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                    Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

                    Bill Gammage brings a new perspective to traditional views of Aboriginal culture. He shows us a culture based on thousands of years of expertise in farming and caring for the land, in modifying wilderness to be sustainably productive.It should make us reassess our ideas of wilderness conservation. All Australians should read this book.

                    Comment on this review

                     
                    4.0

                    Must read for Australians

                    By Penny

                    from Perth

                    About Me Everyday Reader

                    Verified Buyer

                    Pros

                    • Broad Appeal
                    • Continually Relevant
                    • Deeply Informative
                    • Easy To Understand
                    • Groundbreaking Research
                    • Unique Interpretation

                    Cons

                      Best Uses

                      • Gift
                      • Older Readers
                      • Reference

                      Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

                      These kinds of forms annoy me. I've filled in as much as I want to but it keeps sending me back saying it's incomplete. That's the second today! It feels like some kind of harassment when the forms do that. You feel willing to start with and annoyed at the end.

                      Comment on this review

                       
                      4.0

                      Interesting

                      By Agi

                      from Melbourne, AU

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                      Verified Buyer

                      Pros

                      • Unique Interpretation
                      • Well Written

                      Cons

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                        • for everyone

                        Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

                        Easy to follow. To learn more about this beautiful country is always good. Learning more about its vegetation... Australian plants constantly amuse me.

                        Comment on this review

                         
                        4.0

                        The real story of Australia up to 1788

                        By Bruno

                        from Sydney

                        About Me Bookworm

                        Verified Buyer

                        Pros

                        • Broad Appeal
                        • Continually Relevant
                        • Deeply Informative
                        • Easy To Understand
                        • Groundbreaking Research
                        • Unique Interpretation
                        • Well Written

                        Cons

                        • Biased

                        Best Uses

                        • Gift
                        • Older Readers
                        • Reference
                        • Younger Readers

                        Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

                        Illuminating. Provides overwhelming evidence, from historical documents, that the Aborigines groomed the Australian landscape with fire up to 1788, adapting their methods to suit local soil and vegetation. Also provides a detailed rebuttal of the arguments to the contrary of those modern environmentalists who deny that aboriginal land management practices had any but a marginal role in the Australian landscape of 1788. In summary forms, tailored to student's ages and it should be considered as required reading in schools. I'm lending it to each of our teenage grandchildren, for whom it has turned out to be an eye-opener.

                        Comment on this review

                         
                        5.0

                        Excellent information text

                        By Win

                        from Perth WA

                        About Me Bookworm

                        Verified Buyer

                        Pros

                        • Deeply Informative
                        • Have Only Dipped Into It
                        • Well Written

                        Cons

                        • Have Found None

                        Best Uses

                        • Reference

                        Comments about The Biggest Estate on Earth : How Aborigines Made Australia:

                        I ordered this book to use for research into Aboriginal people and their belief that they are at one with the land.

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                        "This bold book, with its lucid prose and vivid illustrations, will be discussed for years to come." --"Australian Book Review"

                        Contents..Illustrations..Thanks..Sources..Abbreviations..Definitions..Foreword by Henry Reynolds..Australia in 1788..Introduction: The Australian estate..1. Curious landscapes..2. Canvas of a continent..Why was Aboriginal land management possible?..3. The nature of Australia..4. Heaven on earth..5. Country..How was land managed?..6. The closest ally..7. Associations..8. Templates..9. A capital tour..10. Farms without fences..Invasion..11. Becoming Australian..Appendix 1: Science, history and landscape..Appendix 2: Current botanical names for plants named with capitals in the text..Notes..Bibliography..Index

                        ISBN: 9781743311325
                        ISBN-10: 174331132X
                        Audience: General
                        Format: Paperback
                        Language: English
                        Number Of Pages: 384
                        Published: 1st June 2012
                        Publisher: Allen & Unwin
                        Country of Publication: AU
                        Dimensions (cm): 24.5 x 17.2  x 3.0
                        Weight (kg): 1.04
                        Edition Number: 1