This short interview with Bill Gamage, author of The Biggest Estate on Earth explores the history of Indigenous peoples and their wildlife management in Australia. He argues that spaces which settlers would now call “wilderness” were carefully and deliberately managed environments. Gamage described how Indigenous people cultivated vast open grasslands often with paths for access, which many settlers likened to national parks. Overall, this suggests that First Nations intentionally distributed natural materials to create environments for nature to flourish. Gamage also touches on the myths of First Nations “treading lightly” on the land, and suggests they used a much more intentional design. I found this interesting in relation to permaculture, notably the re-ordering natural processes to achieve a cohesive and abundant design, which also reduced the amount of time and effort they had to exert to collect the food.
Although understanding the practises of Indigenous people’s land management is important, I think this videos and surrounding work should be treated with a relative level of scepticism. Coming from a settler’s perspective and using sources from other white settlers, Gamage gives little voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Additionally, we cannot generalise individual groups, and should not be attempting to homogenise these diverse cultures under an umbrella term. Nevertheless, gaining a greater understanding of the range of people who advocate for this idea of living and working with nature is really important in contextualising permaculture; I have recently been enjoying the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants By Robin Wall Kimmerer of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation which is a really insightful perspective into this!