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Theme 1 - Farms Without Fences

Over untold millennia, Aboriginal people developed knowledge systems that allowed them to live in sustainable harmony with the land. Despite being regarded by Europeans as ‘simple, primitive, pagan and nomadic’ it was a society free of poverty, hunger, pestilence and war, with the highest common standard of living in the world.

This first collection of nine articles examines the nature of Aboriginal environmental management and how Aboriginal ‘Permaculture Farming’ was largely invisible to European eyes.


  1. In your lifetime, how far has the estimated time of Aboriginal occupation moved backward?

  2. Is it possible there was world-wide trade 4000 years ago?

  3. In view of the specialization of western science, is ‘knowledge splitters’ an accurate term?

  4. Did early British artists paint what they saw, or was it an idealized image of England?

  5. Can you identify any main roads in your area that must have been Songlines?

  6. What evidence is recorded in your own municipality of prior Aboriginal occupation and land use?

AH 1.1

Just how long have Aboriginal people been here?

Various methods produce different results. Archaeologist Gurdip Singh shows that firestick farming has been practiced for more than 120,000 years.

AH 1.2

Ancient Egypt traded with Australia

3,500 years ago in the reign of Pharoah Hatshepsut, Egypt traded spear technology for eucalyptus needed for embalming mummies.

AH 1.3

All Aboriginal knowledge served ecological purposes

Referring to Western academics as ‘knowledge splitters’ the Aboriginal totemic system ensured that all knowledge was related.

AH 1.4

What the early explorers saw

The diaries of explorers like Tasman, Cook, Batman and others show that Aboriginal Australia was closely managed ‘like an English gentleman’s estate’.

AH 1.5

A managed environment

When more closely examined, the true extent of traditional Aboriginal land and waterways management becomes apparent.

AH 1.6

Songlines are everywhere

Like the GPS in your car, Aboriginal people coded the directions of travel into songs and these Songlines are embedded in our major road systems.

AH 1.7

How to do a Songline Map of your Municipality

Techniques for identifying ancient Songlines in your local area are explained.

AH 1.8

A Red River Gum guards your journey

At Heidi Museum in Bulleen, a 500-year-old scarred tree marks the convergence of Songlines from five different directions.

AH 1.9

Significant sites in the Middle Yarra

A number of historically significant sites in the Manningham municipality are identified.

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