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Grampians Access - Parks Vic Draft Management Plan (Read 3662 times)

spidermonkey09

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Climbers are just an easy group to throw under the bus in service of a confected mea culpa.

Exactly. It is politics. Virtue signalling on indigenous issues plays well with the urban left. Climbing is not a big sport in Australia so climbers are easily ignored.

I have been following this tragic situation closely for years (everything Simon Carter has written on the subject is excellent) both because the Grampians are an amazing place and also because the same things are starting to happen in western Canada too, with the same political dynamic. Recently I learned from a very strong young kiwi climber that similar trends to what is happening in the Grampians (compounded by poorly drafted liability law) have long since made climbing in much of NZ, especially on the north island, dysfunctional, with most of the better accessible cliffs now closed. He relocated to Canada as he saw no point in being a climber in NZ any more.

Be thankful, Brits, that you are such a mongrel group that teasing out an oppressed indigenous minority to politicise will never be easy. Though ... those Scots?

Responses like this make me want to close every cliff in the Grampians and give the traditional owners the metaphorical keys.  :thumbsdown:

Australian government bodies motivated by pleasing the urban left?! I've heard it all now! The problem is that PV's approach here will result in more climbers ending up believing the above bull.

r-man

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Was banning climbing Ayer's Rock / Uluru a precursor to this perhaps, the stick now being wielded "climbing on aboriginal sites is bad". I don't think so, but you can't help but wonder.

Cave Rock at Tahoe has now had climbing banned since the 1990s due to ancestral claims.

Worth noting though, Gariwerd / The Grampians national park comprises an area of roughly 1,700 sq km. That makes it slightly bigger than the Peak District national park. They are not just talking about banning one or two sites, but the majority of climbing in that huge area.

It seems hard to understand* why such sweeping bans are needed, and why climbers in particular have been singled out. Bolts, chalk and vegetation damage seem a) easy to limit and control and b) miniscule in impact compared to the huge landscaping project currently being undertaken to bulldoze a new 160km trail through the park, complete with campsites and toilets along the way. More about that here: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/projects/grampians-peaks-trail

*Unless of course Parks Vic is not being honest about the reasons for the bans.

Climbers clearly love and respect this place. Why can't they get together with the traditional owners and find common ground? Why don't Parks Vic allow climbers to participate in the discussions?

Anyway, on the off chance that Parks Vic will listen, here's the facebook link to a climbers' response which seeks to engage with the new management plan. It seems very reasonable, and all you need to do is add your name by leaving a comment.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/grampiansbouldering/permalink/3781042105313652


Johnny Brown

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Genuine question - where are the Aboriginals' voices in this? I'm hearing a lot from Parks Victoria and nothing from aboriginals. Why do aboriginal people need Parks Victoria to speak for them in this case? Why could a dialogue not be set up between climbers groups and the Aboriginals, if respecting their culture and heritage is the issue here.

AFAIK PV are being directed by then rather than speaking for them, but I don't know any details.

A dialogue has been set up: https://gwrn.org.au/ and looks encouraging. Here's their statement on Taipan:

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We wished to give an update on our involvement in providing information to the Gariwerd Traditional Owners (GTOs) regarding their decision making in relation to protection of cultural heritage and climbing recreation at Taipan Wall.

What weíve been doing

The GTOs have been very interested and engaged in learning more about how climbers use and access the Taipan Wall area. This special site contains important cultural values and is also a premium site for rock climbing. The intent is for the three organisations to gain information about rock climbing activities at this site to determine where these activities can resume in a way that ensures protection of cultural heritage.

GWRN has been on two site visits to Taipan Wall. The initial meeting involved representatives from all GTO groups, and Parks Victoria (PV), who provided information relating to the recent cultural values assessment. This visit established where the values are and enabled informative discussions about climbing activities at this site. GWRN provided a broad overview of climbing at Taipan Wall, for example describing Taipanís significance to climbers, the number and nature of climbs, approaches, frequency and pattern of usage.

Following this, GWRN prepared an initial draft report detailing the distance of the cultural places that have been identified from existing climbing activity, including whether a cultural place is touched by an activity. ďClimbing activityĒ includes climbs, approaches, access tracks and descents. The initial report has been discussed with the GTO groups on several occasions.GWRN requested a follow-up site visit last week to clarify some outstanding questions and explain aspects of the information in the report. This visit was attended by representatives from each of the GTOs, signalling strong support for this process as a test case for how things can move forward.

GWRN is in the process of finalising a report to present to the GTOs to support and inform their decision making and planning with PV. Given the sensitivity of the cultural values outlined in the report, GWRN has agreed to only provide a copy of the report directly to the GTOs.

We continue to experience a positive and collaborative relationship with the GTOs. Together we acknowledge the difficulty of this work, and the time and commitment it takes to create a robust framework for collaboration in this space.We recognise the immense strain and uncertainty the current situation places on many in our community. We are all in uncharted waters. GWRN is engaged in work that we hope can become a template for others Ė but it needs time and space to take form.As the recreational use assessment process is worked through we have the following messages for those who would like to demonstrate support for the work the GTOs and GWRN are doing.

Be Patient

The Traditional Owners are actively engaged in trialling and developing a granular, site by site recreational use assessment process to inform themselves of what actions they can reasonably take to protect cultural values and allow climbing activities to continue.

Site visits are a very time consuming activity. Over the past few months, the three GTOs have dedicated substantial resources at all levels of their organisations to these activities and their engagement with GWRN. The recent site visits and discussion regarding potential for co-existence of climbing and cultural heritage are a positive step, and being patient will enable this process to continue.

Traditional Owner groups cannot be compelled by any government agency or politician to engage with climbers or their various representative groups. Traditional Owners have a right to self-determination and informed decision-making in relation to their cultural heritage.

Be Respectful

The climbing community has shown immense respect over the past two years toward requests regarding closures, and toward the recent requests regarding temporary closures at Taipan Wall and Bundaleer. Many individuals, climbing clubs and organisations have stated a desire to help protect and respect cultural heritage. It is challenging but crucial to the success of our efforts that the community continue to demonstrate that commitment. Doing this will help protect cultural heritage, and help us all come to a deeper understanding of our true history to create a shared future.

The GTOs are acutely aware of the uncertainty and distress the climbing community is feeling and are committed to finding a path forward. Despite very limited resources, they are investing significant time to find out what they donít know about climbing to look for solutions. Please respect their efforts by respecting their requests to avoid certain areas.Any disrespect of the temporary closures whilst the current recreational use assessment process is being worked through could compromise it and the possibility of future site visits. If trust in this process develops we hope that it expands far beyond GWRN.The long-term implications of this process shutting down completely at this time are worth reflecting on before deciding on what personal actions to take.

Be curious. Be kind

Our personal experiences repeatedly remind us that the process of reconciliation is difficult and confronting, especially when there is fear of loss or during times of change. We have avoided these conversations for centuries, and yet, the problems of history for our society and for Aboriginal Communities and Nations donít seem to go away. What has happened in the past continues to play out before us. The only way we can change the story is through doing something different, and one pathway forward is reconciliation.

What might we need to find out about law, history and current Aboriginal society in order to play our part in informed and constructive discussion? How do we learn to sit in the discomfort of uncertainty and loss whilst holding hope that change can lead to a better place for all of us?

These are not easy questions to answer nor is it a place to want to be. Itís hard work, and we are all individually grappling with these questions. Karen Mundine, the Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia, describes how it feels to be engaged in this process:

ďReconciliation isnít a single moment or place in time. Itís lots of small, consistent steps, some big strides, and sometimes unfortunate backwards steps ÖĒ

In taking consistent and small steps, we hope you will support the respectful dialogues that are now taking place.


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more of looking at the value of a site on the basis of first principles. The cultural utility of the area is maximised by a settlement fairly weighting all valid interests.

Yeah that makes perfect sense from our perspective. I'm afraid that I've no idea what their idea of a fair settlement would be in the context of their culture and the situation now, but I suspect they might feel they know a little more about sustainable utility than us.

However the real question of reconciliation is what 'fair' looks like in the context of the reasons why there are now more of them than us:

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at least 311 frontier massacres over a period of about 140 years had been documented, revealing "a state-sanctioned and organised attempt to eradicate Aboriginal people

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"For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog, but no consideration on earth would induce me to ride into a camp and fire on them indiscriminately, as is the custom whenever the smoke is seen. They [the Aborigines] will very shortly be extinct."
Victoria 1850s, but this is far from ancient history.

Quote
1924. Bedford Downs massacre: a group of Gija and Worla men were tried in Wyndham for spearing a milking cow on the Bedford Downs Station. When released from the court they were given dog tags to wear and told to walk the 200 kilometres back to Bedford Downs. On arrival they were set to work to cut the wood that was later used to burn their bodies. Once the work was finished they were fed food laced with strychnine by white station hands and their writhing bodies were then either shot or they were clubbed to death. The bodies were subsequently burned by the local police.

June 1926. Forrest River massacre: Western Australian police constables, James Graham St Jack and Dennis Hastings Regan led a month long punitive expedition against Aboriginal people living in the Forrest River region. After the local mission station reported around 30 people missing, a police investigation was organised. This investigation found that at least 16 Aboriginal people were killed and their remains burnt in three purpose-built stone ovens. The police investigation led to a Royal Commission the following year. During the proceedings of this commission, the suggestion of the evidence of a native being equal to that of a white man was openly mocked. Despite this overt attempt to protect the perpetrators, the Commissioner still found that somewhere between 11 and 20 people were killed and St Jack and Regan were subsequently arrested for murder. Instead of going to trial, the men were brought before police magistrate Kidson who, in spite of the findings of the two previous investigations, deemed that the evidence was insufficient to go before a jury. Regan and St Jack were released and the Premier, Philip Collier, even re-instated them to their previous positions in the Kimberley.

Citizenship and the vote was only granted in 1967.

What land is being returned to them is a fraction of what they had, and boils down to the bits we can't use. And, yes, I suspect some politics and exploitation is involved as usual. But the idea that we'll all agree to open access seems incredibly naive. The good old British Empire, eh?

SA Chris

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What land is being returned to them is a fraction of what they had, and boils down to the bits we can't use.

Surely all of it was their's at one point?

Johnny Brown

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Of course, though split between tribes who weren't always on good terms.

SA Chris

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Right enough. Echoes of situation in SA too.

Johnny Brown

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I had a similarly short trip to SA not long after my day trip to Taipan. Driving over the top to Silvermines we passed two lanky guys striding across the scrub in what appeared to be full Zulu warrior get up. No idea who or why but it suddenly felt very much like Africa. Shame there's not much chance of the equivalent happening in Victoria.

SA Chris

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Silvermine crag or boulders? Some tribes do initiation ceremonies where they need to dress up in traditional gear. Not likely Zulu though, unless doing the ceremony a long way from homelands in Kwazulu Natal.

habrich

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Australian government bodies motivated by pleasing the urban left?! I've heard it all now!

I am surprised you are so triggered by this. Nothing I wrote is inaccurate. The left in countries like Australia and Canada are predominantly urban, they do claim to care about indigenous issues, and policies relating to indigenous issues are manifesto items in elections. On the other hand, policy is rarely substantive. There is plenty of lip service to slogans like "it is their land", but in cities like Melbourne with some of the priciest real estate on the planet, much of it owned by the middle-class left themselves, proposing to actually give the land back would be electoral suicide. Meanwhile Australia and Canada maintain high rates of skill-based immigration, supported across the political spectrum, which continue to dilute indigenous groups' influence and share of the economy. In British Columbia, net immigration every year is roughly equal to the entire on-reserve indigenous population. 

So instead there is virtue signalling: setting up yet another independent commission for reconciliation or something like the outdoor museum creation which is effectively happening in the Grampians. Do you think a socioeconomically-disadvantaged aboriginal family in the Melbourne suburbs really give a shit about some piece of bush hundreds of kilometres away being given a cultural site designation? The main beneficiaries of PV's actions are bureaucrats whose jobs are secured and a few archeological consultants - the ACAV guys frequently highlight that one single consultant has a sweet gig with PV to pronounce on all these cultural designations.

When I was working in climbing access here I got caught up in an issue not dissimilar to the Grampians situation: the secret transfer of some public land, with cliffs with many classic single-pitch routes, to a local First Nation group, without any prior consultation with outdoor recreation groups. As past of my engagement I spoke with a local FN guy who told me bluntly that 1. the transfer was stupid and irrelevant to him 2. what his family mainly cared about was the nation's tribal council, based 60km away, disputing his family's use of their home site, on which they wanted exclusive use, but which in the feudal reality of these entities is in fact held awkwardly in common. None of this helped at all with resolving the loss of climbing land, because that land decision was being made by white people in government patriarchally doing what they judged to be meaningful for the "natives".

In summary this stuff is messy and often not what it seems.



habrich

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Genuine question - where are the Aboriginals' voices in this?

The land council for the Traditional Owner group based out of Horsham (town closest to the Grampians) has this substantial strategy document. They care about lots of things, like - no surprise - jobs and schools. In relation to the Grampians and Arapiles, there is mention of joint land management and protecting rock art, and selective quoting could support several interpretations of intent on those topics, but I can't find anything that suggests as draconian a policy as being carried about by PV.

A side-question which I wouldn't attempt to answer for Victoria is whether a tribal council's key concerns would be aligned with the regular tribal members' concerns? I do know that here in BC a majority of people who identify as indigenous and have association with a specific "nation" actually live off-reserve, often in a city far away, and are not active in that nation's politics, which - a further complication - is often decided by a mix of elected and hereditary chiefs. So the headline priorities of a nation may not reflect the majority of its members at all.

Johnny Brown

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Good link, thanks.

I used the phrase 'conflicting truths' over on the Trump thread which attracted some criticism. This is a perfect example. I don't disagree with any of the perspectives put forward - all of them based on verifiable facts - but none of them are the whole picture.

abarro81

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 :offtopic:
I used the phrase 'conflicting truths' over on the Trump thread which attracted some criticism. This is a perfect example. I don't disagree with any of the perspectives put forward - all of them based on verifiable facts - but none of them are the whole picture.

My bold. Perspectives based on facts are not the same as truths! (For starters, perspectives based on facts can often later be proven to be false by other facts)

spidermonkey09

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I am surprised you are so triggered by this. Nothing I wrote is inaccurate. The left in countries like Australia and Canada are predominantly urban, they do claim to care about indigenous issues, and policies relating to indigenous issues are manifesto items in elections. On the other hand, policy is rarely substantive. There is plenty of lip service to slogans like "it is their land", but in cities like Melbourne with some of the priciest real estate on the planet, much of it owned by the middle-class left themselves, proposing to actually give the land back would be electoral suicide. Meanwhile Australia and Canada maintain high rates of skill-based immigration, supported across the political spectrum, which continue to dilute indigenous groups' influence and share of the economy. In British Columbia, net immigration every year is roughly equal to the entire on-reserve indigenous population. 

So instead there is virtue signalling: setting up yet another independent commission for reconciliation or something like the outdoor museum creation which is effectively happening in the Grampians. Do you think a socioeconomically-disadvantaged aboriginal family in the Melbourne suburbs really give a shit about some piece of bush hundreds of kilometres away being given a cultural site designation? The main beneficiaries of PV's actions are bureaucrats whose jobs are secured and a few archeological consultants - the ACAV guys frequently highlight that one single consultant has a sweet gig with PV to pronounce on all these cultural designations.

When I was working in climbing access here I got caught up in an issue not dissimilar to the Grampians situation: the secret transfer of some public land, with cliffs with many classic single-pitch routes, to a local First Nation group, without any prior consultation with outdoor recreation groups. As past of my engagement I spoke with a local FN guy who told me bluntly that 1. the transfer was stupid and irrelevant to him 2. what his family mainly cared about was the nation's tribal council, based 60km away, disputing his family's use of their home site, on which they wanted exclusive use, but which in the feudal reality of these entities is in fact held awkwardly in common. None of this helped at all with resolving the loss of climbing land, because that land decision was being made by white people in government patriarchally doing what they judged to be meaningful for the "natives".

In summary this stuff is messy and often not what it seems.

I was particularly exercised by your sentence 'teasing out an oppressed indigenous minority to politicise.' That doesn't strike me as approaching the topic of reconciliation in particularly good faith. Oppression of indigenous Australians doesn't need teasing out, in the sense that its hard to see and niche; its abundantly obvious and present across the society. I start from the view that reconciliation is necessary and should happen; my quibble is around the best way to achieve this. I perceived your comment as suggesting that its not really a big deal.

That said, I agree that policy is rarely substantive; that includes this proposed policy from Parks Vic. I don't disagree with much at all in your second paragraph. I don't like the way you frame it though; I think virtue signalling is an awful term mostly used by those on the right to excuse any kind of steps in a progressive direction on the grounds that they don't go far enough, while simultaneously offering no proposals of their own. This is particularly galling when in Australia the government is profoundly right wing.

In summary, I absolutely agree its a complex issue but how we frame it is important. I would also agree with Alex that these are perspectives, not truths.

danm

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One of the things that really shocked me when I visited Oz, and to some extent tainted my experience, was the deep visceral racism I encountered. Some of the people who expressed these views were friendly climbers who were well educated and travelled. Over a few campfire beers one evening the topic of "Abo's" came up and let's just say it was an instructive listen. It's only 20 years ago but it was not uncommon then to hear indigenous people being talked of in terms of something less than human.

Anyway, I'm yet another white guy giving my opinion, and there's too much of that already. Climbing may be on hold for now, but I can't help feel that the long overdue process of climbers talking directly to the traditional owner groups (whatever you feel about their true ownership or right to represent the indigenous owners) is a good thing.

Regarding the example of aboriginal heritage families in Melbourne - any examples of the climbers groups who have offered to engage with those people, take them back to their heritage landscape and teach them to climb and cherish it the way we do, whilst learning more about their relationship with the land? I think that would be a really good place to start building a proper, non-woke relationship.

tomtom

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One of the things that really shocked me when I visited Oz, and to some extent tainted my experience, was the deep visceral racism I encountered. Some of the people who expressed these views were friendly climbers who were well educated and travelled. Over a few campfire beers one evening the topic of "Abo's" came up and let's just say it was an instructive listen. It's only 20 years ago but it was not uncommon then to hear indigenous people being talked of in terms of something less than human.

Anyway, I'm yet another white guy giving my opinion, and there's too much of that already. Climbing may be on hold for now, but I can't help feel that the long overdue process of climbers talking directly to the traditional owner groups (whatever you feel about their true ownership or right to represent the indigenous owners) is a good thing.

Regarding the example of aboriginal heritage families in Melbourne - any examples of the climbers groups who have offered to engage with those people, take them back to their heritage landscape and teach them to climb and cherish it the way we do, whilst learning more about their relationship with the land? I think that would be a really good place to start building a proper, non-woke relationship.

Good post Dan. Summarises a lot of how Iíve felt visiting Oz and seeing the relationship between Europeans and Traditional owners. Iíve mainly been to the North where the indig population is much higher as a percentage - and been lucky enough to work in Arnhem Land (a huge indig area/reserve). The cultural differences between the two populations are just immense - and even the way we (Europeans) expect the Traditional owners to use the frameworks of governance (like national parks - and national park management structures) we have imposed is inherently colonial and probably racist.

Iím utterly unqualified to say any more really - just a white Europeans observations.

SA Chris

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We ain't European no more.

spidermonkey09

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Dan, I absolutely agree with your first paragraph. I had similar experiences around campfires which left me open mouthed in horror and disgust at what was being said. Working on a farm in WA, the farmer openly referred to aboriginal people as c**ns and made "jokes" about sterilising and even killing aboriginal trespassers on his land with tainted weedkiller. Needless to say I didn't work there long! When I was working in Kalgoorlie, a mining town in WA, a young aboriginal boy was run down and killed in a police chase, sparking riots. It really can't be overestimated how bad racism is in Australia . It's the main reason I decided I didn't want to live there.

I absolutely agree that the process of climbers talking to the indigenous community should happen, but my main problem with this proposal is that isn't what is happening. Parks Vic have positioned themselves as an intermediary between the two parties and are exploiting it for their own gain. Akin to a middle man in a business deal skimming the bulk of the settlement off the top. I have total faith that climbers and the indigenous community could work a settlement out; but the bureaucracy of PV is the barrier to that.

Hopefully the formation of (overdue) outreach groups will eventually lead to such a settlement. As you say I am totally unqualified really being a European white guy. Off topic, but I'm jealous you've been to Arnhem Land TT, I bet that was an incredible experience.

I'm sure JB and others have loads of reading recommendations on the topic of indigenous culture (keen to hear about these) but The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin is a great place to start if anyone is interested.

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Or watch this and weep at the injustice of it


ali k

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It really can't be overestimated how bad racism is in Australia.
My first interaction with an Australian on home turf was the guy working at the hire car place at the airport who made some pretty offensive comments about the Chinese when we told him who weíd flown with (China Air). Canít remember exactly what he said but I do remember being shocked that he openly said it to someone he didnít know, let alone a customer. Quite a young guy as well.

Johnny Brown

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Quote
I'm sure JB and others have loads of reading recommendations on the topic of indigenous culture (keen to hear about these) but The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin is a great place to start if anyone is interested.

Songlines is definitely the place to start, I think should be required reading for any visiting climber. It has its issues but I'm afraid I'm still looking for a better overview of aboriginal culture.

Critically it has come in for plenty of stick over the years, mainly for the facts that Chatwin's total time in Oz amounted to just nine weeks, relied almost completely on second hand knowledge, and the misunderstanding that it is a straightforward travel book rather than - as Chatwin referred to it - a novel in the tradition of the Greek dialectics. So time has rendered him simultaneously as a dilettante bullshitter and a thief of sacred knowledge.

There's a fantastic long essay examining the book on it's 30 year anniversary here: The Crankhandle of History (registration required I'm afraid). It also explains why my efforts to get hold of Chatwin's principle source text by Strehlow didn't get very far.

Other related general interest books on Oz with aboriginal content are Tracks by Robyn Davidson and In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare. Tracks should also be required reading - Davidson was one of the 'incredible women' Chatwin met in Alice Springs and had far more direct contact with Aboriginals than he ever did. The book was made into a film a few yeasr back which is well worth seeing but fails to fully convey the transcendental moments of being deeply alone in the desert. In Tasmania is a little over-long but will leave you very well informed of Tas's present and past. (Shakespeare also did such a thorough job of Chatwin's biography that it is unlikely anyone will attempt another, however the nine weeks in Oz researching The Songlines are passed over with disappointing swiftness.)

The Greatest Estate on Earth is a weighty tome putting forward the argument that, pre-colonisation, Oz was a wild landscape. Instead, he posits that it was a managed landscape almost entirely shaped by the aboriginals. Gammage is a historian and has attracted scepticism, which seems mainly due to stepping out of his silo and onto the toes of ecologists and anthropologists. He attempts to win the argument through sheer weight of historical evidence, making the book rather dry and repetitive at times but the insights are worth persevering for.

The Last of the Nomads, Pleasley. An expedition-style account of the 'rescue' from drought of the last two aboriginals thought to still be subsisting in the western desert in 1976. In fact the Pintupi 9 were still living a stone age existence up until their first contact with the west in 1984, but a fascinating story nonetheless.



 

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