from micro to macro organisatios 

Indigenous Australians: the MICRO primordial hut and the MACRO community system

Gunditjmara Indigenous Dome-hut, (reproduction). Gunditjmara, Budj Bim heritage park, southwestern Victoria.  Photo: Serena Fiorelli, 2020.

"Many of the shelters the Aborigines built were dome structures. In the rainforest areas where there was heavy rain for much of the year, people would occupy such villages for up to a year. The myth that Indigenous Australians were constantly on the move had come about because early explorers made their observations in good weather, when indigenous people were more mobile than at other times."

In fact, as Dr  Memmot confirmed,  the belief that Aborigines were completely nomadic before the arrival of Europeans 200 years ago, was part of the argument used by white settlers to claim that Australia was terra nullius - the Latin term for land that belonged to nobody. 

Therefore,  it is more accurate to say that Indigenous Australian people were living in semi-nomadic, adaptable and resilient communities.

Embrace Futurity by Daniel Joseph, 2007. Acrylic on canvas. 

Ingenuity. An 1845 sketch by J.H. Le Keux shows an Aboriginal village near the NSW/SA border.

How can we talk about resilience if we don’t refer to Indigenous Australians who have been among the most resilient civilisation ever?

Indigenous Australian communities can be considered one of the highest example of resilience in human history. Not just thanks to their resistance to overcoming the devastating social and environmental consequences that British colonization caused to their civilizations, but from 50,000 years earlier in their history, when arriving from South East Asia (New Guinea, from the most accredited theories), they had to adapt to an unknown and uninhabited territory. Here they had to learn to collaborate in perfect balance with the ecosystem, for example through the wise use of fire (used to keep the vegetation open and create ideal habitats for attracting game).

Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos', by convict artist Joseph Lycett, c1820, (National Library of Australia).

Aborigines spearing fish, others diving for crayfish, by Joseph Lycett, (National Library of Australia).

Historians, writers and academics are now rethinking Australia's perception of Indigenous land management. They argue that the first Australians had complex systems of agriculture that went far beyond the hunter-gatherer tag. The Aboriginal writer Bruce Pascoe recently declared and described in his book "Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?" that Indigenous Australian people were not just hunters and gatherers as they have always been described  but they where also farmers, and their intimate knowledge of managing native plants and animals sustained them for thousands years. Then, Europeans arrived and destroyed this perfect balanced ecosystem causing  all the degradation consequences that we are still seen today. 

View of Port Macquarie , NSW, by Joseph Lycett, 1825.

Aboriginal economy was much more complex than many think and than has been described with finely built villages made with  domes or hats, depending on the climate , with methods of collecting and storing seeds, acquacolture systems with fish traps all designed in a perfect integrated balance with the territory. We can really learn a lot from them about how create resilient and sustainable communities.

In the traditional Country of the Gunditjmara people in south-eastern Australia, there is one of the  the oldest human settlement, with one of the world largest and oldest aquaculture system with  eels and fish traps. It was built about 6,600 years ago in Lake Condah, which  has been  formed by an ancient lava eruption from the Budj Bim volcano. The lava provided also an ideal resource for building and engineering structures. In fact here the Gunditjmara people, the traditional custodians of the land, with their wisdom and profound knowledge, used the volcanic rock  not just to construct the fish traps, weirs and ponds, but they also developed a village for few thousand people. With the lava stones they built circular stone walls, sometimes more than a meter high, constructing dome roofs over the top with earth or sod cladding, and grouping them together with the same stones to form a village. Therefore, Lake Condah was one of the biggest resources for Gunditjmara people providing them with food, shelter, trade, so an economic and social base for six millennia.


 Dome-hut, Budj Bim heritage park, southwestern Victoria.  Photo: Serena Fiorelli, 2020.

 Graphics by Paul Memmott. "The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia", QUP 2001.  

Photo from Budj Bim heritage park, southwestern Victoria. 

some remained old stones of the Domes' bases and of their connections in the Budj Bim's Gunditjmara Village.

Photo: Serena Fiorelli, 2020.


In 2019 the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape was officially placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Listdefining a continous line between past and future for the Gunditjmara people, a trace of their resilience, towards a new civilization...

Budj Bim heritage park, southwestern Victoria.  Photos: Serena Fiorelli, 2020.

A green trace. 


grey. A lava stone dry wall (reproduction).


A koala in Budj Bim Park

A loss from the last bushfire in Budj Bim Park.

The fire imprinting.

Sunset in  Budj Bim.

The Smoking ceremony for the Invasion Day. Portland.  Photos: Serena Fiorelli, 2020.

Gum leaves and branches burning in commemoration of  Gunditjmara's people and land they have lost in the violent invasion of their land.

A local flower donated to the Ancestors. 

-This can be the moment in human history when ADVERSITY and DIVERSITY become source of evolution and not barriers anymore-

A local flower

These images have the sole purpose of communicating the importance and uniqueness of an ancient culture from which we can only commit ourselves to learning.

With the acknowledgement and respect of the Gudjtimara people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I extend my respect to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples through all Australia as the first inhabitants of the nation and the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work. I recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and community. I pay my respects to them and their cultures;

and to Elders both past and present. 


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