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Book Review: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Book Review: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Book Review: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

10 February 2020

Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu has received acclaim for its discussion on pre-colonisation Aboriginal culture.

Reviewed By Sue Hodges

Dark Emu has become one of the most noteworthy books on Aboriginal Australia history in the past few years.

Winning the Book of the Year Award and the Indigenous Writer’s Prize in the 2016 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards, it expertly details what Australia looked like prior to and after the colonial invasion in 1770.

Speaking with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, fourth-generation farmers and using historical documents, Pascoe gives us a well-researched look into everything from agriculture and housing to fire, language and the law.

In recent times, Dark Emu has come under public scrutiny, receiving both positive and negative reviews. I come from Wiradjuri country in New South Wales and I appreciated learning how historically, some people journalled true and accurate records identifying the Aboriginal Australian’s sophisticated way of life. However, some blurred their records and used ‘white out’ to present Wiradjuri people as walking around picking berries, digging yam and hunting kangaroo. One wonders the motivation of some explorers, really!

This book affirms us and will encourage any young Indigenous person pursuing a career in any of these fields. They will feel a stronger sense of purpose and maybe now understand where that passion comes from. A great reference book, clear notes and extensive bibliography – I urge you to grab a copy, you might even find out more about the place where you grew up.

Australians of all descent will find Dark Emu an enlightening, educational and important read.

Available at all major bookstores.




  1. How can you be the Indigenous Engagement Officer and not know that this book is false and grassroots indigenous reject the book Dark Emu. Only those making money out of it or who are selling it to promote their agenda are claiming it is a great book. It is factually incorrect and anyone who has cross referenced with the content and references will see how wrong the cotntent is. If I had presented that book as an assignment at University I would have been kicked out. He claims it is is certainly fiction but it is certainly non-fiction.
    His ancestry of him claiming to be indigenous is also false.

  2. I too read some of the reports of supposed inaccuracies in Dark Emu. I then downloaded some of the original documents that Mr Pascoe quotes, and unfortunately, found the criticism to be well founded. Not sure if it was deliberate or not, but they way MR Pascoe has embellished some of the writings and historical journals, does change the originals, and his claims in many instances cannot be justified. Sad but true. If the author wants some examples of what I have found, please email me. It is good that our shared histories are being explored, but "truth telling" is important for any credibility.

  3. So sad to see even the SA denying that the Aborigines in Australia had a stone-age hunter gatherer culture.
    You need to speak to real Aborigines who are very proud of their culture and do not like this book of fiction.
    Yes he references books in his biblio but misquote.
    This acknowledgement by the ABC is a political conspiracy supported by Wyatt.
    Indoctrinate the kids with the Trojan teaching 9 and 10 year olds that our white settlers were .murderers .

  4. Dark Emu is not factual. It is a polemic. Unfortunately a lot of well meaning people have fallen for its fantasy. Many explorers and early settlers journals are freely available online, as well as Protectors reports, etc. I would refer anyone interested in the facts to the following websites
    Australian History - Truth Matters
    dark emu
    and the books
    "The Australian Race", EM Curr, 1888, Vols 1-3. which is a tribe by tribe account and is freely available online.
    "Bitter Harvest", Peter O'Brien, 2019, also debunks "Dark Emu".
    The more I read early history, the greater I appreciate the difficulties with which Australia has been settled since 1788, and the humanity with which the indigenous inhabitants have been introduced to a modern life.
    I would urge people to go to the original sources, rather than the modern sanitised, and in some cases totally distorted versions

  5. Rob Erskine-Smith
    Rob Erskine-Smith

    Pascoe is a serial liar, beginning with his disproved claim to be aboriginal (see:, and many well authenticated commentators who have shown that Dark Emu is a false narrative based of misuse information which was either false of non-existent.
    It is an absolute disgrace that the Salvo's urge people to read and swallow this steaming pile of untruth, which must undermine your status as an upholder high moral standards. Where is the "truth that will set you free"?
    The least you can do is publish a retraction and apology, and for goodness sake check the veracity of any literature you recommend in future!
    Dark Emu was widely debunked shortly after it was published, and many times since:
    It is sad to see how our goodwill towards aboriginals can be exploited by gullible acceptance of untruth. It is appalling to see how this position of falsehood has been given so much high status, been being incorporated in curricula at primary schools! It needs to be torn down in the interests of upholding truth and moral standards.

  6. I read Abotiginal Biocutural Knowledge in South-Eastern Australia by Cahir,I D Clark andP A Clarke and they supported a lot of claims in Dark Emu. I have recommended Pascoe's book to many of my friends and I am a white-man. I find the adverse remarks as a marketing ploy.

  7. You have to realise that colonisation is the normal behaviour for humans.
    If Cook did not claim Australia for the English then the French were in the wings, as were the Portugese, Dutch, Indonesians perhaps.

    So it was inevitable that a simple hunter gatherer culture would be rolled over by a sophisticated culture with guns, ships with global range, global navigation, organised military, organised hierachy etc.

    Dark Emu is just so much fantasy by a man who appears white, has no aboriginal heritage at all by all accounts. Pascoe is the new Von Daniken and this pile of nonesense is the new Chariots of the Gods.

    Aboriginals at contact where hunter gatherers, as we all were up until the end of the last ice age, about 10 thousand years ago. Australia just never had viable grain for large scale agriculture nor animals for domestication. And so they stayed hunter gatherer. Nothing wrong with that. but they were never agriculturalists or animal herders. Eel traps dont count...

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