Eating yummy Bogong Moths
Although British authorities had good intentions towards Aboriginal people, they nevertheless intended to take their land. From the European point of view, Aboriginal people did not really 'own' the land. The Aboriginal people, on the other hand, considered the land to be theirs, and saw European settlement, which quickly began to rob them of their hunting and fishing grounds, as an invasion they should resist.
Aboriginals' food sources
Before white settlement, Aboriginal people survived off the native plants and animals of the Australian environment for thousands of years. Across the many different environments of Australia, they knew how to find food and water.
Native mammals and birds such as kangaroo, wallaby and emu were regularly hunted and killed. Although animals were sometimes thrown straight onto the fire for cooking, there were a variety of preparation and cooking techniques.
Other foods that seem less palatable to modern urban Australians - such as witchetty grubs, lizards, snakes and moths - were greatly valued.
Bush foods such as berries, roots and nectars were a vital part of the aboriginal diet in many areas. Often these required advanced preparation techniques to neutralise toxins and to make them palatable and nutritious.
In certain coastal areas, shellfish were plentiful and easily harvested. Aboriginals also caught fish in the oceans and rivers using hooks, spears and fish traps.
Aboriginal groups would often travel from season to season; moving to where they knew various food sources would be available. One such source was the annual Bogong moth migrations to New South Wales.
At the time of European settlement, the Wiradjuri were the main tribe in the area. Aborigines came to the territory's mountains each year in late spring to gather and feast on bogong moths.
The Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) occurs commonly during the winter over a wide area of New South Wales. Major migrations southward toward the mountains occur in the spring, and migrations in the opposite direction occur in early autumn. The large quantities of moths and their ease of gathering make them the most reliable summer food source in the Australian highlands.
The Bogong moths are collected and prepared for food by the aborigines in the following manner: a sheet of bark is spread on the floor; the moths are disturbed by a stick and fall down, are gathered up and put into a bag. To cook them, a hole is made in a sandy spot and a fire lit on it until the sand is thoroughly heated. All glowing coals are carefully picked out, for fear of scorching the bodies of the insects. The moths are now poured out of the bag, stirred about in the hot ashes for a short time, and then placed upon a sheet of bark until cold. The next process is to sift them carefully in a net, by which action the heads fall through. The wings and legs having been previously singed off, the bodies are now obtained properly prepared. In this state they are generally eaten, but some times they are ground into a paste by the use of a smooth stone and hollow piece of bark and made into cakes.
As a food, Bogong moths are extremely rich in fat. Protein is carried in the eggs of fertile moths and there are no conspicuous reserves of protein in the moth bodies. Studies have found the average fat content of males' abdomens exceeded 61% and of females 51% of their dry weight.
From: The Moth Hunters: Aboriginal Prehistory of the Australian Alps by Josephine Flood, Australia Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, 1980.
The spread of European civilisation throughout the continent was a conquest
which led to the near destruction of Aboriginal civilisation.