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The biggest estate on earth: How aborigines made Australia Report


The book, The biggest estate on earth: How aborigines made Australia, discuses the effects of white settlement in the Australian continent. It discusses the history of the Aboriginal Australians and the way they lived before colonization. The Aboriginal Australians of the late 1700s were hunters who relied on hunting and gathering for sustain their living.

They also practiced farming and used fire, while hunting for wild animals. Fire attracted the animals making it easy for people to hunt the prey down. Gammage (2012) argues that the first Australians to practice farming did so by developing a system which ensured there was adequate water and food throughout the year.

In his article “The First Farmers” published in Brisbane Times, Tony Stephens agrees with Gammage’s view on the history of the Indigenous Australians. In his review, Stephens illustrates what Gammage wrote about the European invasion and how it changed Australia. The Europeans came and took over the land of the Aboriginal people and even adopted their methods of farming.


According to Tony Stephens who reviewed the book by Gammage, the author’s aim was to inform the readers about the lifestyles of the Aboriginal Australians before the white settlers arrived. He focused on showing how wise and organised they were. They were even able to use fire to hunt animals, and this proves that they were able people (Gammage, 2012).

The activities practiced in the pre-colonial Australia show the vast knowledge that the Aboriginal Australians had. They designed and created land systems which ensured that there was enough supply of food and water. Gammage recognised the scale of the work they had done for land management as well as their skills and knowledge which they has applied to achieve their goals.

Aboriginal Australians’ land management practice enabled the European settlers to start farming in the continent. This shows that the Indigenous Australians were skilful and powerful enough to be able to influence the Europeans who considered the local population to be uncivilised.

Stephens acknowledges Gammage’s aims and his achievements. The Aborigines were knowledgeable enough to use fire for their benefit and prevent the happenings of fire which may kill a lot of animals and destroy everything on its way. They also grew foods, such as yams, millet and different fruits.

Gammage tried to bring up the fact that the colonialists structures tampered with land management of the Aboriginal Australians who were more knowledgeable than they were perceived to be. They valued their environment and took care of everything that was in it. Stephens (2011, p.3) particularly cites Gammage saying, ”The more carefully they (Aboriginal people) made the land, the more likely settlers were to take it”.

The Europeans justified their right to colonise the Indigenous Australians because they thought European civilisation was more progressive and developed than the Aboriginal Australians were, and thus Europeans felt their superiority.

The aborigines even knew the kind of environment needed for every animal. For instance, they knew that bees lived in dessert black wood and kangaroos preferred short grass (Stephens, 2011, p.2). This knowledge helped them in hunting animals which they used as food and for other purposes. They also knew the areas where plants thrive well. This knowledge enabled them to have sufficient food throughout the year.

The book provides valuable pieces of information about the Aborigines and their way of life. According to Blanley, “aborigines made Australia what it is by their extensive knowledge of fire and ecology” (2011, p.11). The Aborigines knew their environment quite well and knew how important it was to take care of.

Fire was used to hunt animals. They created patterns that attracted animals such as gazelles, making it easy for them to catch the prey. It was also used as a hiding place for hunters. The Aborigines ensured supply of food through their farming systems (Whitehouse, 2012, p.213).

Gammage considered various works from different perspectives for his book. He used writings of historians such as James Cook and Abel Tasman. These historians had widely written on the history of the Aborigines and therefore provided a rich source of information. He also examined works of art and drawings such as those by Lycett that show what Australia was before being invaded by the Europeans.

In his book, Gammege extensively considered ecological information which was left by the aborigines which was also important in his work (Blanley, 2011, p.15). Gammage was a renowned historian who had credible knowledge and information about the Aborigines and their ways of pre-colonial live.

Gammage’s book gives the reader a different opinion on the relationship between Aborigines and land. He makes it clear that the Aborigines were knowledgeable people. The book indicates that their knowledge was more developed, but unfortunately, it was not recognised by the Europeans. The Europeans viewed the Aborigines as people who were only meant to hunt and gather.

Gammage shows how Europeans affected the Australian’s development and how their activities affected land and animals. It is important to note that the Aborigines practiced kinds of farming which enabled them to have food and water throughout the year (Whitehouse, 2012).


The Australian Aborigines were very intelligent and knowledgeable about their environment. Before the invasions of the European settlers, they hunted wild animals using fire. They also had their farms, grew crops such as yams and millet and reared animals. The Europeans claimed that the Aborigines were disorganised and did not know land management.

Gammage, after an intensive research, presents to the reader that the Aborigines were very knowledgeable. He even intrigues that the direction the smoke followed in Lycett’s painting indicated that the Aborigines were careful to make sure that fire did not follow the direction of the forest.

It is important to note therefore that the coming of the Europeans did not contribute much to the Aborigines kind of lives as they had already adapted to theirs.

Europeans thought that Aborigines did not know anything and defined civilization as living the way they lived. The Aborigines strived to make their country better than it was. They did not need the Europeans to improve their country because they were able to do it with their knowledge and expertise.


Blanley, G 2011, Masters of the Blaze. Web.

Gammage, B 2012, The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia. Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest.

Stephens, T 2011, ‘The First Farmers‘, Brisbane Times. Web.

Whitehouse, H 2012, ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia’, Australian Journal of Environmental Education, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 251-253. DOI: 10.1017/S0814062600000306

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PhilCoulson. (2019) 'The biggest estate on earth: How aborigines made Australia'. IvyPanda, 28 December.

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