thomas m wilson

Australian Company

April 12th, 2007


This photo is by Geoff Cuningham (published in The Best of Australian Geographic Photography). It is of a velvet gecko pausing on some Aboriginal rock art, and to me it is the perfect symbol of the intimate connection between Aboriginal culture and the natural world on this continent. I consider this to be one of the most memorable Australian nature photographs.

The Aboriginals weren’t saints when it came to environmental sustainability, but they were a lot more attuned to the textures, patterns and forms native to Australia than the Europeans who arrived after them. Part of this came from hunting native animals: the hunter perforce has a deep knowledge of the animals he hunts. Aboriginals also kept Australian animals as pets.

But white Australians can bring Australian life into their homes as well. Michael Archer, author of Going Native, has kept a quoll from infancy in his house, and reports that it makes a better pet than a cat or a dog. The Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia has, over the last few years, legalised the keeping of lizards, so that you can now have even a big monitor lizard. In the next few years they will hopefully get around to legalising the keeping of marsupials such as quolls. If a native pet industry grew up then conservation would have another ally. But more than this we would have little Australians in our houses, bringing us white people closer to having a bioregional consciousness.

With knowledge could come love.