At the St Albans Writers Festival last weekend I was confronted with the task of trying to explain – briefly – what a project about ‘Aboriginal Engineering’ is about. Here is my ‘short speech’. It’s still a draft, but closer to articulating what I think of our goal/ task/intent.
Circa 1770 there was as much engineering on the landscape of the continent we now call ‘Australia’, as there was on the landscape of Europe. It was, however, vastly different engineering; built on a very different world view and sustained by very different beliefs, principles and cultures. When Europeans arrived in large numbers they simply did not recognise what they were seeing, so had no trouble subverting it and allowing it to wither away – where they did not actually destroy it.
But that engineering was resilient, having sustained its peoples for 1,000’s of years, and it remains present for us to acknowledge, recognise and honour. The project is about finding ways to do this respectfully, carefully and thoroughly.
The goal is to change the way that modern Australian society thinks about those first cultures such that ‘Aboriginal engineering’ becomes an unexceptional term embedded in all aspects of Australian knowledge about itself, its past and its future.
Comments, adjustments and challenges most welcome.