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Australia’s first naturalists

Well into the 20th century, European collectors and naturalists engaged Indigenous people to participate in expeditions that sought to collect and understand the local fauna and flora. Indigenous men and boys were the most frequent participants, but women and female children also became major contributors, exchanging knowledge for tobacco, alcohol, food, clothes, sweets and other items. Thousands of animals were traded, but Aboriginal people’s participation was barely acknowledged.

Penny Olsen and Lynette Russell have examined the contribution of Australia’s Indigenous people to the advancement of Western zoology in their book, Australia’s First Naturalists. Traces caught up with Olsen and Russell to find out more about this fascinating topic.

Why is Indigenous faunal knowledge important?

Indigenous faunal knowledge grew out of the environment.

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