#SolidScience – Aboriginal Farming

A common misconception about Indigenous people before European settlement in Australia was that they were no more than a hunter-gatherer society. Indigenous Australians were one of Earth’s earliest farmers. Growing crops, making traps for fishing, and replenishing the land to make hunting easier.

Indigenous Australians grew crops of tubers for Yams in a way that allowed for them to be regrown the next season. They would often be planted next to river and stream beds in localized patches on rich alluvial soils. They were often harvested in the autumn months after the rainy season when the soil is at its softest. The Yams would be cooked the same as most other kinds of food, roasting or baking on hot embers.

Sketch showing paired stem tubers of D. hastifolia. The new tuber was harvested and the crown was replanted to ensure a future crop. Drawn by Ken Macintyre 2019.

Observing animal behavior, the Indigenous People knew that Kangaroos preferred short grass. Due to this knowledge, they knew that they had to burn off the old grass to promote new grass for them to graze in large groups thus making them easier to hunt. Prescribed burning is still practiced very much in use today by farmers, rangers, and parks and wildlife crews.  

Yam diggers at Indented Head, Victoria, 1835. Yams were a staple of the traditional diet. (JH Wedge – Magabala Books)

They also made a system in which stones would be placed to catch fish when the tide is high and keep them in there when it is low where they can be caught by hand or with a spear. This was a great and very sustainable way of fishing. The remains of these traps can still be seen today in various locations all over Australia.

Title photo: Powerhouse Museum Sydney

Taj Mamid – Midwest Aboriginal Ranger Program Administration Support Officer

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2 comments

Hi there,
this is a fantastic resource for primary schools. Do you have any other online information about the local Midwest area? Thank you.

This helped me with my research for this topic because it made me think about how they did all this. ☺☺️☺️☺️☺️☺️☺️😊😊😊😊😊😀😀😀😀😀😀😁😁😁😁

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