Bruce Pascoe

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Bruce Pascoe
Born1947 (age 71–72)
Richmond, Victoria
ResidenceEast Gippsland, Victoria
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne (BEd)
GenreAustralian fiction, poetry
SubjectAustralian Indigenous history
Notable worksFog a Dox (2012)
Dark Emu (2014)
Notable awardsFellowship of Australian Writers Literature Award (1999)
Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction (2013)
New South Wales Premier's Literary Award for Book of the Year (2016)
New South Wales Premier's Indigenous Writers' Prize (2016)
Dreamtime Person of the Year (2018)
Australia Council for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award (2018)
SpouseLyn Harwood

Bruce Pascoe (born 1947) is an Indigenous Australian writer, of mixed Cornish, Bunurong, Yuin, and Aboriginal Tasmanian (Palawa) heritage. He has also written under the names Murray Gray and Leopold Glass. He has worked as a teacher, farmer, a fisherman and an Aboriginal language researcher.

He is best known for his work Dark emu: Black seeds: agriculture or accident?, which reexamines colonial accounts of Aboriginal people in Australia and cites evidence of early agriculture, engineering and building construction.

Life and career[edit]

Pascoe was born in Richmond, Victoria in 1947.[1] He is of mixed heritage, including Tasmanian (Palawa[2]), Bunurong (of the Kulin nation), Yuin[3][4] and Cornish heritage. He acknowledges his colonial ancestry as well as his love of "the broader Australian culture" but says that he feels Aboriginal, saying “It doesn’t matter about the colour of your skin, it’s about how deeply embedded you are in the culture. It’s the pulse of my life”. He said that his family denied their own Aboriginality for a long time, and it was only when he investigated the “glaring absences” in their family's story that he was drawn into Aboriginal society and culture.[5]

Pascoe spent his early years on King Island where his father worked as a carpenter at the tungsten mine. His family moved to Mornington, Victoria, when he was 10 years old, and then two years later moved to the Melbourne suburb of Fawkner. He attended the local state school before completing his secondary education at University High School, where his sister had won an academic scholarship. Pascoe went on to attend the University of Melbourne, initially studying commerce but then transferring to a teachers' college. After graduating he was posted to a small township near Shepparton. He later taught at Bairnsdale for nine years.[6]

While on leave from his teaching career, Pascoe bought a 300-hectare (740-acre) mixed farming property and occasionally worked as a abalone fisherman. In his spare time he began writing short stories, poetry and newspaper articles. After separating from his wife in 1982, he moved back to Melbourne and sought to publish a journal of short stories. He came into conflict with existing publishers and instead decided to form his own company, raising $10,000 in capital with his friend Lorraine Phelan. Their company Pascoe Press began publishing Australian Short Stories as a quarterly magazine in 1982. It came close to selling out its initial print run of 20,000.[6]

He has been a school teacher, deckhand, barman, farmer, editor, publisher. Pascoe edited and published the quarterly magazine of short fiction, Australian Short Stories, which published all forms of short stories by both established and new writers, from 1982 to 1998. He ran Pascoe Publishing and Seaglass Books with his wife, Lyn Harwood.[4][1]

He featured in the award-winning documentary series which aired on SBS Television in 2008, First Australians.[4]

Pascoe has been Director of Commonwealth Australian Studies project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission,[4] and worked on preserving the Wathaurong language.[1]

Pascoe's books include Fog a Dox, a book for young adults that won the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in 2013,[7] and Convincing Ground about the Convincing Ground massacre.[8] He has also written under the names Murray Gray and Leopold Glass.[4]

Dark Emu, first published in 2014, challenges the claim that pre-colonial Australian Aboriginal peoples were hunter-gatherers.[9] Pascoe's research of early settler accounts found accounts of grain cultivation, flour, wells, and dams.[10][11] The book was well-received. A favourable review of its cultural implications in the academic online magazine The Conversation touched off a debate there about Pascoe's use of his historical sources,[12] which led to the publication of some unfavourable reviews.[13][14]

A version of Dark Emu for younger readers, entitled Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, was published in 2019.[15]

Pascoe and historian Bill Gammage contributed text accompaniments for exhibits by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones in the Tarnanthi 2019 exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia, entitled Bunha-bunhanga: Aboriginal agriculture in the south-east.[16]

In October 2019 it was announced that a documentary film of Dark Emu would be made for television by Blackfella Films, co-written by Pascoe with Jacob Hickey, directed by Erica Glynn and produced by Darren Dale and Belinda Mravicic.[17]



  • A Corner Full of Characters, Blackstone Press, 1981, ISBN 0959387005
  • Night Animals, Penguin Books, 1986, ISBN 9780140087420
  • Fox, McPhee Gribble/Penguin books, 1988, ISBN 9780140114089
  • Ruby-eyed Coucal, Magabala Books, 1996, ISBN 9781875641291
  • Wathaurong : Too bloody strong : Stories and life journeys of people from Wathaurong, Pascoe Publishing, 1997, ISBN 0947087311
  • Cape Otway: Coast of secrets (1997)
  • Shark, Magabala Books, 1999, ISBN 9781875641482
  • Nightjar, Seaglass Books, 2000, ISBN 9780947087357
  • Earth, Magabala Books, 2001, ISBN 1875641610
  • Ocean, Bruce Sims Books, 2002, ISBN 9780957780064
  • Foxies in a Firehose : A piece of doggerel from Warragul, Seaglass Books, 2006, ISBN 0947087362
  • Bloke. Penguin Books Limited. 3 August 2009. ISBN 978-0-85796-558-5.
  • Convincing Ground: Learning to Fall in Love with Your Country. Aboriginal Studies Press. 2007. ISBN 978-0-85575-549-2.
  • The Little Red Yellow Black Book : An introduction to indigenous Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2008, ISBN 9780855756154
  • Fog a Dox, Magabala Books, 2012, ISBN 9781922142597
  • Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture Or Accident?, Magabala Books, 2014, ISBN 9781922142436
  • Seahorse, Magabala Books, 2015, ISBN 9781921248931
  • Mrs Whitlam, Magabala Books, 2016, ISBN 9781925360240
  • Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Magabala Books, 2019, ISBN 9781925360844
  • Salt: Selected Stories and Essays, Black Inc, 2019, ISBN 9781760641580

Pascoe has also produced a language learning CD-ROM, film, and teachers' book and a Wathaurong dictionary for the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-op, Geelong, Victoria.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Author profile: Bruce Pascoe". Macquarie Pen Anthology. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  2. ^ Talk: 60,000 years of tradition meets the microscopic world (2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences)
  3. ^ Pascoe, Bruce (1 February 2016). "Bruce Pascoe on the complex question of Aboriginal agriculture". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Radio National) (Interview). Conversations with Richard Fidler. Interviewed by Richard Fidler. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Bruce Pascoe". Austlit. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  5. ^ Tan, Monica. "Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe: 'We need novels that are true to the land'". Books. The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b Connelly, Patrick (26 March 1983). "A comeback for the short story?". The Canberra Times.
  7. ^ "Fog a Dox by Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books)". Australian Government ; Attorney-General's Department; Ministry for Arts. Archived from the original on 15 March 2014.
  8. ^ "Convincing Ground : Learning to Fall in Love with Your Country". AustLit.
  9. ^ "Dark Emu argues against 'Hunter Gatherer' history of Indigenous Australians". ABC Kimberley. 2 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Australian Aborigines Were Sophisticated Farmers and Land Managers". The Epoch Times. 21 May 2014.
  11. ^ Pascoe, Bruce. "Non-fiction". Bruce Pascoe. Archived from the original on 26 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Dark Emu and the blindness of Australian agriculture" by Tony Hughes-D'Aeth, 15 June 2018.
  13. ^ O’Brien, Peter (2019). Bitter Harvest: The illusion of Aboriginal agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. Quadrant Books. ISBN 978-0-9953683-1-6.
  14. ^ Windschuttle, Keith (12 November 2019). "The Epicentre of Our History". Bennelong Papers - Quadrant. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  15. ^ Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. Magabala. 2019. ISBN 9781925360844.
  16. ^ Marsh, Walter (1 October 2019). "Jonathan Jones and Bruce Pascoe offer a timely illustration of Aboriginal lands on the cusp of colonisation". Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Dark Emu to be adapted as TV documentary". Arts Hub. Publishing. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Guide to the papers of David Foster". UNSW Canberra. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  19. ^ Rice, Deborah (16 May 2016). "Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu wins NSW Premier's Literary prize". ABC News. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  20. ^ "Australia Council Awards | Australia Council". Retrieved 4 March 2019.

Further reading[edit]