The Aboriginal story of the Burke and Wills Expedition and relief expeditions is at once multi-faceted and complex with many interconnected threads that have rarely been teased out in historical analyses. In many respects the Aboriginal story has been overshadowed by the tragedy and misfortune of the expedition in which seven men, including Burke and Wills, died. Yet the exclusion of Aboriginal perspectives is a structural matter, as epitomised in Moorehead’s analysis. The description of central Australia as a ‘ghastly blank’ (Moorehead 1963, p. 1) where the land was ‘absolutely untouched and unknown, and except for the blacks, the most retarded people on earth, there was no sign of any previous civilization whatever’, is representative of the exclusion of Aboriginal people from the narrative and if Aboriginal people are discussed, it is often in racist tones. As Allen (2011, p. 245) rightly pointed out:
Indigenous Australians have long understood sustainable hunting and harvesting, seasonal changes in flora and fauna, predator-prey relationships and imbalances, and seasonal fire management. Yet the extent of their knowledge and expertise has been largely unknown and under-appreciated by non-Aboriginal colonists, especially in the south-east of Australia where Aboriginal culture was severely fractured. Aboriginal Biocultural Knowledge in South-eastern Australia is the first book to examine historical records from early colonists who interacted with south-eastern Australian Aboriginal communities and documented their understanding of the environment, natural resources such as water and plant and animal foods, medicine and other aspects of their material world. This book provides a compelling case for the importance of understanding Indigenous knowledge, to inform discussions around climate change, biodiversity, resource management, health and education. It will be a valuable reference for natural resource management agencies, academics in Indigenous studies and anyone interested in Aboriginal culture and knowledge.