Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born to Lutheran lay missionaries at the Hermannsburg Aboriginal Mission in Central Australia, Peter grew up with Aranda nannies and playmates, learning from them their language and how to live off the land. This experience shaped his later career as Australia's foremost non-Aboriginal authority on desert plants, and was the foundation of his abiding love of the country and its first peoples.
In his early adult life he worked as a stockman, road train driver, on bore maintenance, as buffalo wrangler, snake handler, and then inspector of buffaloes around Darwin.
He went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in Zoology and Botany at the University of Adelaide and later a Master's degree at the University of New England on the Aboriginal use of plants. His 1982 thesis was the basis for his landmark publication Bushfires & Bush Tucker (IAD Press, 1995, 1996, 2004). Combining Aboriginal and western knowledge it is a work of unique scientific, cultural and historical value. In 2007 he published The Flaming Desert which presents his assessment of the prehistory and current ecology of central Australia, focussing on Aboriginal use of fire to modify plant communities.
For forty years he was a Senior Botanist for the Northern Territory, based at the Northern Territory Herbarium in Darwin and Alice Springs.
Now retired, he continues his lifelong collaboration with Aboriginal people to preserve their ecological knowledge and undertakes professional consultancies. He is an Honorary Associate of both the Northern Territory Herbarium and the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in Alice Springs.
He won an Northern Territory Landcare Award in 2015 (Australian Government Individual Landcarer). He is said to be the first person to identify the environmental risks of Buffel Grass now recognized to have major ecological impacts.
Source: Extracted from: Latz, P. (2014) 'Blind Moses - Aranda man of high degree', IAD Press, Alice Springs
Portrait Photo: M.Fagg, 2016
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