Dehesa Australis


“A society grows great when old people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek proverb.

This paper is an invitation to join a discussion on specific ideas pertaining to the future of Tree Crops in Regenerative Agriculture in the temperate climate regions of the Australian continent. In particular the research, design and application of the agroforestry/silvopasture systems of the Iberian Peninsula known as Dehesa and their potential as models for analogous systems in climatically relevant areas of Australia; hence the term Dehesa Australis(first coined by Paul “Speedy” Ward).

What is Dehesa?
For those not so familiar with the Spanish term, Dehesa(or ‘Montados’ in Portuguese) describes a semi-domesticated, savannah landscape established centuries ago as an agro-silvo-pastoral system within the Iberian Peninsula. Featuring widely spaced oak trees(commonly Quercus ilex var. Ballotas but species can vary with locale) growing in grass lands used as both pasture and to a lesser degree for the production of annual crops. The trees are spaced approximately every 40-60m to minimise water competition, maximise light for the pasture in the understory and acorn production for pigs and game. Specialised black Iberian pig breeds have their diets largely supplemented by the fallen acorns of the Oak over story. Commonly the Holm Oak(Q. ilex), a hardy evergreen, cork-like oak native to the region. The animals fatten up rapidly through the season of La Montanera(October to February) as the ripe acorns fall to the ground, each animal gaining approximately 60 kg in weight by eating up to 7 kilos of acorns per day. Their processed meat, known as Jamon de Iberia puro de Bellota, is famous for holding flavours and textures not only the result of the acorns but of the native shrubs and herbs found growing there like, wild oregano and thyme. On top of fresh air and excellent food, the true free range nature of the system provides the animals with adequate exercise needed for the fat to evenly infiltrate into the meat, another ingredient in it’s superlative quality. It is in fact the highest priced ham product in Europe. These systems cover more than 3 million hectares in the Iberian Peninsula and Greece and have great importance on the regions food production, economy and culture in general. Extra system yields include wild game, mushrooms, honey, cork, timber and firewood to say nothing of the extra environmental benefits of carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and so on.


An established Dehesa system in the Extramadura region of Spain.
Image source:

Why Dehesa Australis?
The future brings specific challenges to the human communities living in the temperate and brittle regions of the Australian continent. Projected drying trends, a lack of robust traditional cultural and agricultural systems to fall back on(what was here has been largely lost), very few recognised edible native plant crops, a ‘too-much-yet-to-lose-before-we-bother-changing’ head space of the people, a common misunderstanding of Australia’s unique hydrological cycles, often poor soils, salinity, ravenous parrots, etc…

A large motivator for this study was the regions lack of biomic analog to mimic for food production. For instance in many other temperate/mediterranean regions of the world which Europeans have colonised the local systems have to a large degree resembled their homes. i.e. even California had Oak Savanna with Prunus and Rubus spp understory etc. Here in southern Australia we do have native savanna type systems however they are dominated largely by Myrtaceae, Fabaceae and Proteacea species. Nothing against dry, schlerophyl, eucalypt woodland but it doesn’t lend itself terribly well toward a hungry European(N.B this is not about pro-colonialism or Eurocentric-ism but about productive, Regenerative Agricultural systems whatever they resemble… We recognise that the indigenous and traditional peoples of Australia had a deep, balanced and functioning working relationship with the land however next to nothing remains of their knowledge systems and it is unrealistic to think that European Australia will soon adopt what is left of those methods).

Of course the areas defined here are vast and broad and practices appropriate for one site to another will vary, however there seems to be a strong leaning toward taking existing pasture and even unused land to establish the likes of Oak/Chestnut/Carob dominated savanna silvopasture type systems reminiscent of the Portuguese ‘Dehesa’ but here with the inclusion of many other relevant species that pre-industrial Iberians may not have had access to. These silvopasture systems coupled with water harvesting techniques custom to our high evaporation rates, using planned grazing with stock to sequester soil carbon, keyline design, programs for selectively breeding highly adapted perennial staple crops and further studies into dry land forestry(mallee eucalypts etc…) could see us developing and refining ever more robust and productive models.

These systems include extra yields of…

various premium animal products
tree fruit/nut crops
fire wood
craft wood
wild herbs
wild game
eco-tourism etc…

Plus extra-environmental benefits of…

wind reduction
moderated temperatures
moisture retention
generally lower stock exposure to harsh elements
minimised/distributed stock ‘camping’
greater diversity in stock diet
minimised soil erosion
wildlife habitat
great aesthetic appeal
plus countless emergent ecological benefits…

We foresee variations on two main models. Firstly the classic savannah template of pasture dotted with widely spaced productive trees and secondly a model borrowing from the Agroforestry practice of ‘alley-cropping’ whereby trees are grown in rows(preferably on keyline patterning) with the alleys between used for planned grazing or in some cases used to grow annual crops. It has been suggested that the former model is best suited to systems where the primary yield is the animal product while the latter would be more economically conducive to systems where both animal yields and tree crop yield are desired. The potential inclusion of multi-functioning understory plants would be decided on case by case.

Identify your biome
”No matter where one goes on planet Earth, there are families of plants and their associated animals that grow and thrive together in virtuous relationships with zero external inputs.” – Mark Shepard.
In his book ‘Restoration Agriculture’, author and farmer Mark Shepard suggests the first step in designing such systems is to identify the local endemic biome and then best mimic that biome using highly productive, hardy analogs as closely related to the original species as possible. As mentioned above our local biome is largely Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus, Melaleuca etc.) dominated dry to moist sclerophyll woodlands and savannahs with Fabaceae(Acacia) understory. There are many edible Myrtaceae from tropical and subtropical South America(Guava, Feijoa, Jaboticaba, Patanga, Grumichama etc…) and while many do well here they are predominantly understory plants and require summer watering and relatively rich soils. Australian Fabaceae has an excellent analog in the form of the Carob, a high value, multi purpose staple crop already perfectly adapted to our climate. The greater system however will need to be a composite of other traditional Mediterranean climate region’s(MCRs) agro/silvo/pastoral systems also taking advantage of MCRs ability to happily house many species from subtropical, semi-arid and temperate systems of the world. It is proposed that the Iberian Dehesa system be used as a basis for our model. However instead of using just the Iberian Oaks(Q. Ilex var. Ballots, Q. suber, Q. faginea etc) as the over story, we incorporate a number of over story species with emphasis on the following points…
Hardiness to local conditions, especially precipitation/evaporation.
Staple foods. Where applicable tree crops producing staple food types I.e fats, proteins and carbohydrates should be favoured.
Multi function. Species offering greater range of functionality are to be preferred. Fodder, timber, medicinal, culinary, environmental etc.
Superior varieties. It would be beneficial to intend to locate known superior varieties with proven performance. In the particular case of Oaks, varieties producing low-tannin acorns are to be favoured I.e Quercus ilex var. ballotas. When intended for stock animal consumption low tannin acorns result in a superior meat product. However when discussing acorns as bulk, staple human food tannins can act as preservatives allowing for longer storage.

Such a list of potential species for Dehesa Australis systems may include…


1. Oak, Quercus ssp.
Q. ilex, the Holm Oak
Q. suber, the Cork Oak
Q. lobata, Californian White Oak
Q. robur, the English Oak
Q. muhlenbergii, Chinquapin Oak
Q. prinus, Chestnut Oak
Q. alba, White Oak
Q. bicolor, Swamp White Oak
Q. faginea, Portuguese Oak
Q. pyrenaica, Pyranese Oak
plus many, many more…

2. Ceratonia seliqua, Carob(species of great importance, issue of tannins also applicable)
3. Morus spp., Mulberry
4. Diospyros spp., Persimmon
5. Prosopis spp., Mesquite
6. Castanea sativa, Chestnut
7. Gleditzia triacanthos, Honey Locust
8. Persica americana, Avocado
9. Casimoroa edulis, White Sapote
10. Arbutus unedo, Strawberry Tree
11. Macadamia spp., Macadamia
12. Prunus amygdalus, Almond
13. Pistachio spp.,
14. Pinus spp., Pine Nuts
15. Prunus salicifolia, Capulin Cherry
16. Araucaria bidwillii, Bunya Pine
17. Ficus spp., Figs
18. Olea europa, The Olive
19. Prunus armeniaca, Apricot
20. Eriobotyra japonica, Loquat
21. Inga edulis, Icecream Bean

Productive Canopy/Sub-canopy

1. Zizphus jujuba, Jujube
2. Eleaegnus spp., Goumi, Autumn Olive etc
3. Harpephyllum caffrum, Kaffir Plum
4. Dovyalis caffra, Kei Apple
5. Punica granatum, Pomegranate
6. Feijoa sellowiana, Feijoa
7. Cydonia oblongata, Quince


1. Chamaecytisus palmensis, Tagasaste
2. Lupinus Arboreus, Tree Lupin
3. Acacia Spp., Wattles
4. Casuarina spp., Sheoak
5. TipuanaTipu, Rosewood
6. Leucaena spp.,
7. Robinia psuedoacacia, Black Locust
8. Inga edulis, Icecream Bean


1. Rosemary
2. Thyme
3. Oregano
4. lavender
5. echium
6. borrage
7. juniper
8. Artemisia spp., Wormwood
9. Sunflower
10. Rue
11. Rosa spp.,
12. Opuntia Spp., Prickly Pear
13. Apple Cactus
14. Salvia spp.
15. Sunchoke
16. Chia
17. fennel
18. chenopods
19. Maranta arundinacea

Where to?
These ideas are nothing new. J. Russell Smith wrote of and suggested the implementation of such systems almost one hundred years ago in his seminal work ‘Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture’, in which he highlighted the ecologically stabilising effects that permanent, perennial, tree based agricultural systems had on not just the ecology but also on the local Human settlements. Many pre-industrial agricultural systems relied heavily upon the use of trees wether for pannage, fodder, fruit/nut crops, fuel, coppice products etc. and within the context of the more than likely low-energy future scenario we are moving into it is all but given that trees will once again be valued as the backbone of ecologically regenerative agricultural systems. Hopefully we can beat the onset of severe energy decline by establishing such systems before they spike.

We propose the Dehesa Australis project include…

  1. Bringing together relevant parties, ready, willing and able to begin a more formal conversation on the subject.
  2. List and describe all species/varieties that we find to be likely candidates for Australian Dehesa analogue plantings.
  3. Locate all those relevant species/varieties that are currently present in Australia.
  4. Locate and document all relevant/applicable systems currently existing in Australia.
  5. Locate and document all relevant/applicable systems currently existing outside of Australia(The Dehesa of Iberia being but one).
  6. List/locate all relevant species/varieties that currently are not believed to be in Australia and establish systems and relationships with relevant parties(breeders, botanical gardens, Australian quarantine etc) to enable a safe and streamlined means of importing desired propagation material from international sources.
  7. Establish physical locations where we can collect and maintain entire arboretums of applicable species/varieties into Dehesa Australis collections. A place where the best varieties of the best species could be grown and kept for future application. Ideally at least one arboretum per major bio-region.
  8. Long-sighted breeding programs which aim to cultivate hardy, precocious, high yielding varieties specific to each bio-region.

The Future
There are many socio-economic reasons why these types of systems have not been appreciated let alone implemented in Australia. One of which is the relatively long time a tree takes to mature to a point where it is yielding and the resources it takes to nurse young trees and ensure they establish. However, in a world where the future dynamic of energy production and consumption appears so precarious it is a responsibility for us to invest at least some percentage of the relatively cheap and accessible resources currently at our disposal into these kinds of stable, robust agri/cultural systems. For far too long we have been driven by the single-bottom-line motive of profit over the extra-cultural and ecological benefits of these proposed tree based systems. I urge you to consider the many benefits these systems will have upon the generations to come and just how grateful they will be that we considered them a worthy investment of our time and resources.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek proverb.

See below the work of Dr Imma Farre in suggesting the Dehesa model in south Western Australia…

For a stunning visual model of a broad Dehesa system in Spain’s Extramadura region I direct you here…

For an exploration of the ecotourism appeal of Dehesa systems I direct you here…

This paper is merely an integrated presentation of other peoples works. People such as…

David Holmgren
Darren Doherty
Bill Mollison
J. Russell Smith
Mark Shepard
Dave Jacke
Eric Toensmeier

… and the many others who share the vision of a stable, ‘permanent’ agriculture based on tree crops.

Regen Australis  – Concept Map

The Future of Regenerative Culture in Australia

A map of the key motivations, questions, studies and intentions of the Dehesa Australis project.

What is the Dehesa Australis project?

The Dehesa Australis Project began with an essay on the Dehesa, a traditional broad scale silvopastural system from the Iberian peninsula and it’s promising use as a model for pastoral systems in the climatically analogous regions of the Australian continent. Within that article I wrote that The future brings specific challenges to the human communities living in the temperate and brittle regions of the Australian continent.” And went on to list a handful of those challenges then moved on to the main crux of the article. However, that premise kept nagging at me, asking to be expanded upon. When I eventually sat down to write an article on that focussed subject I quickly realised, as the subject continued to unfold itself in front of me, that this was the topic for a whole book… and so I gave myself the charge of writing it. Again, the more I worked on it the greater the breadth and depth of the many and varied subjects therein became apparent. This discussion crossed the boundaries of countless fields… ecology, agriculture, anthropology, economics, energy production, sustainability studies, psychology, reconciliation… I realised that for me to write this would take years and years and require hundreds of hours of further research. Soon it dawned on me that perhaps the best way to research would be to conduct interviews with many different people. I would gain a vast diversity of perspectives, I could ask questions in real time and the content could become available before any book need be written, edited and published. It was also relieving to know that this work could be a collaborative effort and not all on me to complete. So that is where it currently stands. There is a website under production to house amongst other things a forum, a news feed and a podcast. The research, in the form of the interviews will be released as they’re ready. Hopefully the project will first foster a focussed dialogue, then consolidate the works and efforts of the countless brilliant people who have invaluable perspectives on this issue, then a book could likely be edited using all the material… and of course action. Appropriate action based on the refined perspective of a deep and thorough dive into this overdue issue.

The whole enterprise will be aimed toward asking the one Principle Question central to remedying one Principle Premise….



Modern, contemporary Australian culture is acutely maladjusted to the ecologically realities of the Australian continent and thus is in an increasingly dangerous and fragile position.


In response to our Principle Premise we ask the Key Question…

How do we best develop a regenerative culture in Australia particularly within the context of climate change and energy decline?”

Let’s expand on this question by clarifying the definition of terms as they are used in this context…



Pertaining to the entire process of manifesting our desired end result; from self exploration, statement of values, visioning, research, historical revision, experiment/trial, data collection, informed design, project management, implementation, establishment, maintenance, monitoring and revision. This is not a static process. It is multi-disciplinary, fluid and ever growing.



Often used as the idealised state or trajectory upon a spectrum describing system dynamics:

atrophy sustainability regeneration

Atrophy’: describes a state of decay caused by a system consuming more resources than it or it’s environment can provide and/or create. The current, dominant global system of single-bottom-line, capitalist, socio-economics fits thoroughly within the parameters of a system in acute atrophy.

Sustainability’:(a term now so over and misused as to render it almost meaningless) describes a state in which a system’s net energy and material consumption is equal to the energy and materials provided by itself or it’s environment. Energy in for energy out. In theory a sustainable system can run in perpetuity but only just ‘breaking even’. Net gain just covers expenses so to speak.

Regenerative’: In his book ‘Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development’ John Tillman states that…

A regenerative system provides for continuous replacement,

through it’s own functional processes,

of the energy and materials used in it’s operation”.

Brad Lancaster, in his book ‘Rainwater Harvesting vol. 1’ states…

A regenerative investment: -can repair, reproduce, and/or regenerate itself; -starts to grow or improve once it is made; -does not require ongoing investment of imported energy and outside inputs to keep it functional; – produces more resources than it consumes; -improves the health of its surroundings and the world; -typically serves multiple functions; -is alive or part of a living culture, that continually evolves/regenerates the investment.”

In a world that is beneficiary to a constant supply of energy in the form of light and heat from the Sun, regeneration is not only possible it is the very norm. It is the means by which this planet has evolved though ecological succession from a bare rock with a sulphurous atmosphere into the indescribably fecund and diverse garden that it has become.

Or as author Michael Pollan puts It… “As long as the sun shines there is a free lunch”



The collective identity, beliefs, values, heritage, habits, traditions, customs and behavioural traits of a group of people as discernible from other groups. Often but not always contained within a particular locality or region.’

Within the context of our Key Question the word culture also strongly pertains to a people’s agricultural practices. Here Agriculture is in turn defined as…

the methods and means by which a people obtain their physical needs(food, fibre, energy etc.) from the environment’.

Agriculture being an ecological enterprise, is the very foundation of a culture(see Key Premises). A people’s agricultural methods are nothing short of a reflection of their relationship to the Earth and says volumes of their character and collective state of maturity(or lack there of). Within anthropological discussion the agri/cultural practices of a people is often expressed within a spectrum of practices. This model is flawed but can also serve as an clarifying illustration. On one side there are ‘semi to fully nomadic hunter gatherers’ demonstrating a nominal amount of sedentary practices and/or cultivated agriculture; that being the conscious manipulation of the ecology(plants, animals, soil, water etc) in order to maximise yield for perceived minimum effort. These people within these systems generally encounter a great diversity of foods. On the other end of the spectrum are fully settled agrarian societies that rely heavily on cultivated agriculture and relatively little upon hunting of wild game or gathering of produce. The further a people move toward this end of the spectrum, the lower the diversity of their foods due to the need for efficiency in cultivated systems. Of course across the world and throughout history their have been myriad varying forms of human agri/culture all demonstrating a unique Human response to their particular ecological context. It should noted that increasingly, revisionary anthropologists such as M. Kat Anderson, Bruce Pascoe and Bill Gammage are demonstrating that even amongst such peoples once considered exclusively as ‘hunter/gatherers’ is evidence for forms of multi-generational cultivated agriculture often on a scale so broad and deep that it wasn’t recognised by colonial European eyes. And of course at the furthest pole of the latter end of this spectrum sits out current broad scale, petrochemical input heavy, monocultural agriculture serving our increasingly urbanised, industrial “culture” which describes considerations such as ecological function and human and animal welfare as “externalities”.

But how can a culture be regenerative?

Admittedly, it can be a very tricky thing to try and qualify let alone measure if something as broad and intangible as a culture can be regenerative. We can look to the following things to indicate we are on the right track…

-The people have a thorough understanding of and deep respect for the nuances of their ecology and to be deeply committed to regenerating ecological function.

-All enterprises of that culture are aligned with and by default regenerate ecological function.

-All enterprises of that culture recognise, honour and foster the physical, emotional and mental well being of it’s people.

-Animal welfare is honoured highly within the the realities of ecological function.



Nation of Australia: The modern nation represented by the Commonwealth Government of Australia, a colony of the British Empire. British in origin and still predominantly western European in cultural form.

The Australian Continent/Landmass: The physical island-continent of Australia and it’s associated ecology, geology, hydrology, biology and indigenous human culture as distinct from the fictional, artificial, legislative entity of The Commonwealth of Australia and the modern cultural entity of the Nation of Australia. We recognise that even the name Australia is of European(Latin) origin.

Modern Australia: The modern, predominant cultural form(s) currently practiced by the people living on the Australian Continent, the vast majority of which are of western European heritage.

Aboriginal Australia: The original human populations of the Australian Continent, tens of thousands of years old and by extension their priceless traditional knowledge, practices, relationship with the land and cultural forms in general.


Climate Change

Whether exclusively anthropogenic or otherwise, the planet’s weather patterns are currently in a state of pronounced flux, upon which Human activity has undoubtedly had an effect. These unpredictable, shifting climatic patterns can and do have an effect on the ecology. Ecology is the foundation of(everything?) agriculture. Agriculture is the foundation of culture. Therefore we must face the inescapable fact that we are entering a period of relatively acute cultural turbulence due to these shifting weather patterns. We can attempt to mitigate the severity of these changes by altering our activities to become aligned with ecological function. We can prepare for the worst of the now inescapable coming turbulence by establishing the most robust agri/cultural practices as we possibly can, again by studying and aligning to ecological function. It is a wonderful consolidation to know that by doing so we will not only be mitigating the discomfort and suffering of ourselves and future generations but also creating a more health inducing abundant, resilient, efficient and beautiful world in the process. Win, win, win.


Energy decline

The defining reality of our current, global paradigm is based on a poorly understood, misspent, anomalous historical blip. Thanks to the discovery of petrochemical fuels coupled with the industrial capacity to harness them the Human endeavour has gone form relatively small scale, low energy, local activities to high energy enterprises on a global scale. Never before in recorded Human history had a generation of people, anywhere, found themselves amid such pronounced and rapid economic growth, technological capacity and innovation. With this wealth and surplus energy Humanity could have designed and established regenerative cultural systems which could have all but ensured access to food, fibre, water and energy for people, ostensibly for ever. The great tragedy of our age is that we have done the exact opposite and squandered those resources by investing in the brutal, the novel, the convenient, the disposable and the tacky. And now it it appears that those hyper-rich petrochemical resources around which our entire modern house of cards is built are finite, non-renewable and already proving cost prohibitive to extract. As energy declines resources become more sparse. Significant resource decline inevitably breeds acute social turbulence(war, genocide etc). It is within this pressing context that we, the inhabitants of what has been called ‘the most agriculturally challenged of all the inhabited continents on the planet’ are being called to rethink our trajectory and intelligently design systems based on renewable, human scale, local energy sources.



-Due to the undeniable ecological and cultural havoc that follows in their wake, current Human management practices at large are in dire need of a through revision.

-Strong foundations are an imperative for any successful enterprise. Our culture currently dismisses it’s ecological foundation as an ‘externality’.

-Ecology is the primary economy. Ecological function is true wealth.

-Ecology is the foundation of agriculture.

-Agriculture is the foundation of culture.

-In order to achieve a regenerative culture we must manage holistically.

-Whether purely anthropogenic or otherwise, the macro-climate is currently in a state of significant flux.

-Due largely to having been able to rely on significant inputs from outside the system, contemporary Australian culture has yet to acclimatise to the ecological realities of the Australian continent.

-Significantly destabilising phenomena such as climate change and energy decent are likely within the short to medium term future.

-‘Terra nullius’, the legal basis for the sanctioned replacement of Aboriginal Australian peoples and culture is unquestionably incorrect and inherently inhumane.


-To develop a regenerative culture in Australia based upon Ecological Accounting.

-A Holistic Context for Australia.

-For the mainstream, urban majority of Australia to recognise, understand and respect the imperative importance of their agricultural counterparts.

-For all Australians to have a thorough understanding of and deep respect for the nuances of Australian ecology and to be deeply committed to regenerating ecological function.

-For all of modern Australia to fully recognise and respect the incalculable depth of of Aboriginal Australian culture and to recognise and respect the scale of trauma they have experienced as a people since European colonisation.

-For a thorough social and legal revision on the ‘Terra nullius’ declaration in Australia, first noted by R v Tommy (Monitor, 29 November 1827)

-For European Australia to recognise, work through and heal it’s own trauma, guilt and cultural dysfunction and to come to a place of symbiosis with the Australian ecology.



  • What did the Australian ecology look like in 1788?
  • Just how anomalous is the Australian ecology?

-Where can we look for appropriate, regenerative models to apply within the Australian context?

-What did the Australian ecology look like before Human arrival?

-To what degree can we reliably use other continents as comparisons for Aus. Paleo-ecology?

-Did Diprotodons etc. represent/occupy an analogous niche to other large herbivores on other continents? If so, how did their impact on their environment resemble/differ from their ungulate counterparts abroad?

– Why did Aus. Megafauna die out?/why did it desertify? Human predation? Climate change? Poor soils? Marsupials?

– Why, even in more brittle parts of the Old World did peoples rely on annual grains for their staple food and not tree crops? – Holmgren’s “standing army” theory?

– Hunting: guns, protected fauna etc


Our main motivation is to foster deep discussion on how to best develop a regenerative culture in Australia. To find the answers to this question we will inevitably be led through discussions down many and varied subjects.

As it currently exists modern Australia is teetering toward an ever more precarious and fragile position. Perhaps more than most, the people of Australia face many serious and particular challenges in the likely event of significant climate change and energy decline. Australia, as a modern nation is dangerously underprepared to handle the socio-economic turbulence associated with diminishing resources due to agro-ecological stress.

If explained to them, next to all people claim to want a regenerative culture. It ticks all the primary boxes that we collectively hold in high value. Happy, healthy and prosperous people stewarding a full, diverse and robust argo-ecology. In order to achieve such a state of socio-economic and eco-agricultural resilience, abundance, efficiency and beauty we must first become intimately familiar with the nature of the situation that we are dealing with.

So just what is the situation that modern Australia finds itself in?…

KEY STUDIES: The Whole Under Management

In order to make appropriate and intelligent design decisions we need a thorough, intimate and conscious understanding of our context. Where are we? What is Australia?.. this land upon which we live and draw sustenance. Who are we?.. this modern nation of Australia, so ready for constructive reinterpretation. It can be said that as yet, European Australia has still not come to terms with the fact that they aren’t back in Western Europe, an utterly different place to where they now find themselves.

Australian Ecology: Where are we? What is Australia?

  • climate, hydrology, geology/soils, flora, fauna, natural history
  • breakdown of what % of Aus. Is which climate type

Human History: Who are we?

  • Aboriginal: Original human inhabitants. Who are they. Their culture. How they effected the ecology. Their traditional land management practices.
  • European Australia: Major colonialist wave. History. Demography. Psychography
  • Other: Important minorities. Chinese. Muslim etc


The future brings specific challenges to the people of modern Australia.

Even if the current petri-chemical rich, socio-economic ‘business as usual’ continued indefinitely, modern Australia still has the issue of being a culture who’s eco-agricultural practices are acutely maladjusted to the Australian ecology and are causing swift and acute environmental degradation. Whether from slave labor, welfare from ‘Mother England’, petri-chemical fuels or revenue from mining, logging or other extractive processes, European Australia has always had significant inputs to bootstrap it’s survival. Never has it had to refine a truly sustainable(let alone regenerative) settlement within the challenging dynamics of the Australian ecology without significant resource injection. All this coupled with the fact that the vast majority of traditional Aboriginal knowledge has been lost means that modern Australia has virtually no tried-and-true folk systems to fall back upon in the event of an energy crisis.

In order to realise a regenerative culture modern Australia may first need to deal with a number of pressing issues, including but not limited to…


Modern Australia

  • penal history of Eur-Aus. – trauma, disorientation, severed roots
  • genocidal guilt of Eur-Aus and trauma of Aboriginal Aus.
  • disconnection from land
  • virtually no sense of ‘ecological accounting’
  • lack of identity
  • hardline ‘conservationist environmentalism’ – “Best thing for the land is to lock it up from destructive humans”. – due to fear of unfamiliar ecology coupled with guilt from both genocide and swift, acute degradation
  • lack of appropriate/reliable folk practices
  • never had sustainable human settlement without slave labor, mining or oil
  • loss of traditional Aboriginal knowledge
  • Terra nullius:
  • Meaning “unused or uninhabited land”. A classification given to Australia by the colonial British using the legislative latin of the day. The catagorization of Terra nullius implies that the land in question is either uninhabited by people or that those who do inhabit it aren’t cultivating or otherwise using it and therefore, according to the canonically rooted legislation of the time, is open and available to be acquired and settled by those ready and able. However, it has long been recognised by revisionary historians and anthropologists as having been a categorically incorrect description of the Australian Abroigine’s relationship to the land and in fact was more a strategical move by the crown’s representatives in Australia to ‘legitimise’ the broad scale conquest of the continent and disregard(at best) for it’s previous human inhabitants. Further still, recent works such as Bruce Pascoe’s “Dark Emu” and Bill Gammage’s “The Biggest Estate On Earth” have shed extra light upon the complex and superbly adapted indigenous land stewarding practices of pre-colonial Australian Aboriginals. Practices that if Terra nullius was accurate should never have existed. The effects of that declaration are with us still today. They continue to inform the perspective of modern Australian’s toward their Aboriginal predecessors. Even the current collective self-image of Aboriginal Australian’s is likely also moulded, in part at least by the conventional view of them. Terra nullius is still with us as the accepted picture of Indigenous Australians as ‘noble savage’, relicts from the bronze age, scraping out a meagre subsistance livelihood by whatever primitive technique they could manage(even if this were the case it still nowhere near justifies what occurred). Even most people who have a great compassion and respect for Aboriginal Australia, who recognise and grieve for what they do know of their great loss, still don’t appreciate the vast depth and sophistication of the cultural forms that have been lost and all but forgotten… and the very real Human response to the trauma of it’s interruption. If modern Australia is to move forward then the realities of the Aboriginal Australian experience must to be respected and allowed to heal. To do this we must at least start with a recognition of the destructive fallacy of Terra nullius and thoroughly reject it’s every premise. Removed from labels of guilt or victimhood, preceding any talk of reparations… from a simple, humble, humane compassion in recognition of a almost unvoiceably deep trauma. Do do anything but, at this stage in history, would be active ignorance.


  • Aus. Is so very different from Europe
  • brittle
  • poor soil
  • poor ground water
  • harsh U.V
  • allelopathic/pyrophytic flora
  • few large animals
  • unreliable weather patterns etc
  • projected drying trends
  • FIRE!
  • conventional European agricultural techniques degrade the ecology and collapse entirely without massive petri-chemical input
  • ‘resting to death’ – the atrophied predator/herbivore/rangeland relationship and its degenerative effects on our brittle climate



  • Aus. ‘survived’ the GFC – sense of immunity to global recessions


Once we have a thorough understanding of the situation we can ask “where could we look for guiding principles and appropriate models that we might use to inform our process of developing regenerative culture in Australia?”

General Sustainabilty/Regen studies

Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge

  • conventional model of ‘hunter/gatherer’
  • Bruce Pascoe’s revision
  • current state of Aboriginal traditional knowledge

Climatic Analogues

  • Mediterranean & Near-East

Cultural Analogues

  • Southern Africa

Bio-regional Administration – Culture is a reflection of a human populations response to local ecological conditions, therefore…


Unlike most peoples throughout history who’s cultural practices evolved in concert with their environment over countless generations, we now find ourselves in the unusual situation of having to actively think, design and construct our(or more acurately our descendants) way out of an otherwise all but inevitable disaster. Fortunately we do have a few things going for us… We now have countless tools to draw from in aid of our efforts and these. A smorgasbord of species, techniques, technologies and general information from across the world at our disposal. These coupled with intelligent application of the immense ‘oomph’ of remaining petrochemical energies means we really do have a shot at getting this right… so long as there is also the will to do so… and that too seems to be growing, at least from a grassroots level. From deep within the hearts of people a resounding call back to country, community, self, other and life… Left to it’s own devises this phenomena alone might be enough to see us through without to much turbulence and suffering. If coupled with the kinds of infrastructure and resources that governments and large corporate entities wield we could see unimaginably beautiful systems emerge and establish. As to just how the top-down element in all this plays out is as good as anyone’s guess and an important crux to the near to mid term future of the Human experience.

*We need to start making decisions from beyond the conventional, capitalist motive of single-bottom-line, exclusively profit driven head space.

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