Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

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Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Orwell on Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:44 pm

I am reading a book about Aboriginal Land Management prior to the First Fleet arriving in 1788 (Australia Day or European Invasion Day, depending on if you are among the winners or among the losers). The curious thing is that it seems pretty clear that Aboriginals used fire to cause all sorts of managed habitats for food production among other things (it was not just food production, it appears very much about causing other managed 'quality of life' benefits and a continuing application of the religiously ecological i.e. Dreamtime). This apparently occurred all over the Australian continent. After the European Invasion, these management practices - and they appear simple on the surface but actually were incredibly sophisicated in practice - kept the country in an orderly state fit for human existence. Aboriginals rarely starved, possibly never - or at least prior to Europeans brought their advanced agriculture and culture, that is - after that Aboriginals had all sorts of hunger issues, and diseases like small pox, V.D. and Christianity to contend with. We now have huge bushfires capable of killing hundreds of people and thousands of other fauna, and huge property and flora damage. Makes you wonder how 'advanced' Europeans were, and how 'primitive' Aboriginals were.

An interesting thought* (among many others) has popped into my head while reading, and that is, the Greens in Australia are a pro-environment Party, supporting natural environments being preserved. But the evidence appears to show that there is next to no place in Australia where the Aboriginal firestick has not been carefully applied for millenia. The Greens appear to be against the huge amount of back burning required to reduce fuel load. They believe that the 'natural' environment should be preserved. If the Aboriginals are given back territory - and much can probably be given back - what will the Greens have to say about Aboriginal fire-management and the destruction (manmade improvement?) of envirnomental habitat?            


* Well an interesting thought to me, anyhow. Very Happy

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by halfwise on Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:57 pm

Yeah, the North American continent was managed in part by fire as well before the Europeans arrived. And there's good evidence that the dust bowl in the 1930's was caused largely by a lack of contour plowing.

I don't think people learn to manage a new land until they run up against a resource bottleneck. Europe's pretty well under control now, the US still has a ways to go before we find equilibrium.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Orwell on Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:07 am

I'm not prepared to give up my mon cons, Halfy, but I can't help admiring people who had heaps of leisure time for art and Dreaming, and spent little time overall 'working'.  The working still existed - land management, even by fire stick, requires planning and footwork - but the effectiveness and efficiency left much time for leisure and song and for 'a'wandering I will go' i.e. 'walkabout' (tourism?)

The early European 'explorers' often encountered Aboriginals who could tell you accurately about locations thousands of miles outside their own kin group's 'country'.  An explorer, Eyre, commented that Aboriginals told him that there was no great inland sea and that Australia was an island! Shocked  I suppose that was a ludicrous idea, of course! Mind you, there was a great sea once, about a million - or so? - years ago, so the European thinkers were right, just a little bit out chronologically speaking. Very Happy

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:10 am

I find the entire Dreamtime thing fascinating- any insights, thoughts or info on that Orwell would be greatly appreciated.

On the burning thing, we still do it here, burning off hillsides of heather-

'The heather landscape is not a natural one.  Left to its own devices with no burning and no grazing by sheep it would slowly be overgrown by shrubs like gorse and/or fast growing trees like birch, and then the heather moor would be gone forever.  That’s because Mother Nature is forever striving to turn everything into woodland and forest, which for the majority of habitat types in the UK is the end result if you leave the countryside unmanaged for a hundred years or more.  Woodland.  Of course woodland is in itself a valuable habitat too, so it’s not to say it doesn’t deserve or get protection elsewhere, but at the heart of a healthy environment is a mix of habitats.
heather moors are now a globally important habitat and the UK has a whopping 75% of them…..most of which are in Scotland (though it should be mentioned that Scotland has lost over 20% of them to development and agriculture since 1960).
To keep the heather moor in a good state of health, it is deliberately burned in a controlled fashion.
New heather plants are very important, as the fresh green shoots are eaten by grouse.
But left to their own devices, new shoots are unlikely to get a foothold beneath the old gnarled heather.  The moor is therefore burned.  It’s done fast enough to be able to clear the old heather but not damage the soil, and thus encourage dormant heather to sprout.  Not ALL the moor is burned, however.  Just like in the woodland, wildlife on the moor benefits from having a diverse structure.  Grouse may well like eating the exposed green shoots but they also need the older, longer heather as hiding places from things with big teeth and/or claws, and in which to rear their chicks……but the heather mustn’t be TOO high otherwise grouse and other birds can’t pop their heads above it to look for danger.  The moor is therefore burned in patches in an endless sequence that spans decades, and which results in a mosaic of heather of different ages.  In Scotland this practice is called ‘muirburn’.- Benenvironment.


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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Orwell on Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:22 am

I have had a surficial interest in Aboriginals for a long time - one interest among many. But I've applied for a job - if I get it - that will involve me working in consultation with Aboriginals closely in the area of crime prevention. I thought I'd better apply a bit more research into the area so as not to enter the area from the direction of European Ignorance. I found the book I mentioned and it really is enlightening - though some if it I was already dimly aware of. It amazes me how we so easily look on 'primitive' societies as being - well, primitive. (No, I talk for certain Europeans, I have never really thought Aboriginals primitive, though I never knew just how sophisticated they were, being only aware of certain of their 'skills', each in isolation). Not one 'primitive people', when properly studied, is actually primitive at all, except perhaps in purely technological terms. And let's face it, technology causes as much bad as it does good. A connection with 'country' is important. I'm a gardener and I wonder if that's not my 'primitivism' coming out. And, apparently, even primitive Scotshobbits are sophisticated {{{Very Happy}}} , at least in land management! The way fire is used to create 'habitats' is deceptively simple. I thought it was more to do with hunting per se! Fancy me, of all people, not knowing everything!  Shocked

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:30 am

Hunting does play an important part in it- particularity of grouse as they depend on the heather moors to survive and grouse and deer are the two main creatures that are hunted- and on private shooting estates the commercial aspect is a strong motivator for the practice continuing, but its also done by the forestry commission and other bodies on 'public' land purely for habitat management for the reasons outlined above.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Orwell on Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:03 am

Funny how you think of words like ' habitat' and think immediately (or at least I do) of nature untouched by man (or woman). Essentially a burnt forest edge is no different than a huge energy (and soul) sapping skyscraper. Both are man(woman)made, though I guess there might be the odd forest edge habitat that we have not had any hand in at all.

As to the Dreamtime. I plan to do some research in my region into the local tribal groups and the local Dreamtime(s) is the bit I'm looking most forward to. (Even if I don't get the job I mentioned, I think I'll do the research anyway. About time I knew local history a bit more deeply).

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by David H on Sat May 14, 2016 6:08 pm

Johannesburg (AFP) - A retired South African sales executive who emigrated to Australia 30 years ago is hatching a daring plan to airlift 80 rhinos to his adopted country in a bid to save the species from poachers.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/african-rhinos-flown-australia-escape-poachers-055657764.html?ref=gs

Feral rhinos running through the streets of Ozhobbitlandia.... How could this possibly go wrong? affraid

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sat May 14, 2016 9:49 pm

{{{I suspect they will all get killed within a week by all the other bloody poisonous stuff already living there Mad Or they will just go mad in the heat like the rest of the OZhobbitstan inhabitants- I heard from a reliable source that Orwell has gone completely potty! Shocked }}

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Mrs Figg on Sat May 14, 2016 10:42 pm

I was thinking about the man made countryside only the other day as I took a train journey through the English countryside I wondered if the Romans would have recognised it, but I was wondering if Britain 1000 years ago was one big forest from end to end with just a few settlements cleared and ploughed. The massive scale farmed landscape we see today would have been impossible without machinery so the landscape would have been largely wild. so therefore forested. so how did people navigate in a massive forest? today you can see for miles because the land is just farmed fields with hedges, but surely 1000 years ago you wouldn't have been able to see any distance or navigate because of the trees? scratch

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sat May 14, 2016 10:56 pm

{{You'd need to go back more than a thousand years for the Great Forests of Britain Figg. The bronze Age saw the first deforestation on a really major scale and the first clearing for farmlands- by the Iron Age you have hill forts surrounded by miles of fields marked out by boundary walls.
From the iron age for about the next 1000 years they cleared most of it, leaving just the outliers there are now- but once upon a time its was said a squirrel could go from the Highlands to Cornwall and never set foot on the ground.
So 1000 years ago the landscape would be recognisably as it is now, with almost all the trees gone.
I suppose once you discover how to make bronze then iron you can make much better equipment to chop down trees, and you have to chop down the trees in order to have enough wood for the fires you need to make all the axes to chop down the trees with! }}

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Mrs Figg on Sat May 14, 2016 11:56 pm

we still seem to have an ancestral thing about forests though, in our imaginations they are still alive as either scary or magical wonderful places. or both.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 15, 2016 12:25 am

I think we often underestimate the people of the past. What we have that they didn't is technology. And what a lot of research show is that, for instance, the romans were as close to it as we were two centuries ago, but never needed to go there. They had all they needed sorted. And as is demonstrably true is that the ancient greeks discovered both the technology of railways and steam power, but never put them together.

The roads not taken, eh..

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Bluebottle on Sun May 15, 2016 12:26 am


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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by David H on Sun May 15, 2016 2:19 am

I don't know about Britain, but many Native Americans used to light seasonal fires to keep the forests at bay, especially along important trade routes, and around harvesting and pasture lands to keep them open.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Orwell on Sun May 15, 2016 1:44 pm

Forests seem always to have been places of fear in tale and song. It's interesting to think that any part of wild nature, desert, plain, jungle or steppe or... You know what I mean. Well, they are all scary places, if you're caught out alone, or at least can be.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by halfwise on Sun May 15, 2016 1:54 pm

Bluebottle wrote:I think we often underestimate the people of the past. What we have that they didn't is technology. And what a lot of research show is that, for instance, the romans were as close to it as we were two centuries ago, but never needed to go there. They had all they needed sorted. And as is demonstrably true is that the ancient greeks discovered both the technology of railways and steam power, but never put them together.

The roads not taken, eh..


If you can find the book Ancient Inventions it's a stunning catalogue of things the ancient world had but never fully developed, so we don't hear about them.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun May 15, 2016 11:52 pm

{{{{Update on the Orwell situation, my reliable source now says he has not just gone potty but, 'colourfully potty' Shocked Not sure if that means he is a bit eccentric or if he has started wearing rainbow underpants on his head or if its just the medical term for mid-life crisis, but I intend to find out, well my reliable source does, I intend to get very drunk and listen out for more  gossip in the Duck 'n' Muck  Nod drunken  }}}

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by halfwise on Mon May 16, 2016 1:55 am

Another one has gone CP? What is the world coming to? No

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by halfwise on Mon May 16, 2016 12:34 pm

And CP is the opposite of PC. Seems about right.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by chris63 on Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:40 am

Booze ban extended near Fitzroy Crossing, in WA’s Kimberley

A BOOZE ban at a remote Aboriginal community near Fitzroy Crossing in WA has been extended for another three years.

Wangkatjungka was the first community in the state’s Kimberley region to request a 12-month liquor restriction in 2008.

It’s been extended a number of times since then, most recently on Friday when Racing and Gaming Minister Colin Holt announced it would remain dry until 2019.

There are 18 dry communities in WA, with fines of up to $2000 for an individual who brings alcohol into a town subject to the section 175 liquor bans.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by halfwise on Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:56 am

We've got dry counties here. Still have bars, but you sign up as a "private member" and then you can drink. The native Americans are famously prone to alcoholism, but whether it's genetic or just what comes from having a cultural heritage torn out from under them I can't say.

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:02 pm

{{{More good reasons not to travel further than staggering distance from the local pub Nod drunken }}}

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by halfwise on Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:01 pm

This is related, fascinating, and beautiful. Be sure to watch the video halfway through the article.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/pleistocene-park/517779/

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Re: Australian Aboriginals and Land Management

Post by azriel on Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:46 pm

Ive saved that article, there's quite a bit to read & what I did read seemed to make sense.

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