Indigenous Australians

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Indigenous Australians are known as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

They were the original inhabitants of Australia and are said to have been living here many centuries before Europeans laid claim.

After European settlement, the two civilizations were totally different.

Because of this, they clashed.

Neither could understand each other in language or culture. The Europeans didn't understand the Indigenous Australians territory, boundaries and methods of tending their land.

Because of this, the Europeans decided that the land was unpossessed and set about exploiting their discovery.

Since the Europeans violated the tribal laws on trespass, they resisted.

All over atrocities continued.

Guns confronted spears, and a race was almost completely wiped out.

And so the land was taken over. In the name of progress, development and civilization.

They thrust their own concept of civilization onto these "savages" which involved owning, fencing and farming the land.

Something quite foreign to the Aborigines.

Eventually the Indigenous Australians were pushed further and further into the reserves and "progress" took place.

They were eventually shunted into missions, settlements or shanty towns and so-called religious groups attempted to "Christianize" them.

In the 1930's, 40's and 50's, the government, charitable and religious groups took many mixed race children from their families, to be raised in orphanages and in some cases adopted into white families.

These children are now known as the Stolen Generation.

An excellent Cairns Day Trip is to visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park, where you can learn loads more about their way of life.

Aboriginal Language

Indigenous Australians spoke some 300 different languages and dialects, and their lifestyles and cultural traditions differed from region to region.

One Anthropologist said of the Aboriginal language, “They have the verb ‘to be’ in a sense to which we whites can lay no claim. It unites the perfection of the Latin and Saxon verb with those of the Celtic and goes beyond the powers of either.”

He then spoke about their sign language: “It has developed to the point where it has become a viable alternative to spoken language, a sophisticated subtlety of intellectual development comparatively rare in patterns of human communication.”

Sign language was important to Indigenous Australians, as it was a way of communication between tribes, and they also needed to be silent when hunting.


They have a deep and very complex connection with the land that "white" people really don't understand.

Their culture is based on Dreamtime and it embraces tribal history, customs and folklore.

There is a saying, “He who loses his dreaming is himself lost.”

Dreaming is passed on from generation to generation. It's like it's born in them and is passed on by song, dance and demonstration at gatherings called corroborries.

Beliefs like these are held deeply by many Aborigines down to this day.

Hunters and Gatherers


Indigenous Australians were excellent hunters and gatherers.

The were able to survive the harsh Australian conditions because they knew how to live off the land.

They tapped water-bearing trees, but carefully plugged them afterward.

They dug water holes, and then covered them with sand to prevent evaporation.

They killed to eat, but never an animal with young and they fished the stingray and dugong, but in times of breeding passed them by.

Their tracking skills were exceptional and police used to turn to them if there was someone lost in the bush.

Boys were taught to track from a very early age.

They'd examine the ground minutely and it would read a story to them.

By the time they reached adulthood they could tell the story of any piece of ground, even hard rock, of what had passed that way and when.

They could follow these tracks for days.

They knew by the tracks left by a person, what the person was like.

If the person was tall or short, fat or thin, male or female, sick or well, white or aborigine.

As they followed the tracks, they could relate what he had done on the way.

Sadly, these skills are being lost in the Indigenous Australians as they become more and more "westernised".

Aboriginal Tools

The Boomerang is a well known implement which Indigenous Australians used to hunt.

The seemingly harmless weapon can kill a large kangaroo.

They're designed so skilfully that The Australian Encyclopedia says: “Mathematicians have shown that a slight alteration in the shape of the returning boomerang, in the ratio of size, twist and rounding, all will cause corresponding changes in its flight, which can be demonstrated by equations.”

And to think that the design of the boomerang is in their head, which they also past on from generation to generation.

They didn't have drawing boards, precision instruments or machines!

Next is the Didgeridoo! Studies of rock paintings on cave walls show images of Indigenous Australians playing the didgeridoo and archaeological evidence suggests that it's about 2000 years old.

The didgeridoo was originally made from hardwood where there was termite activity.

The length of it is from 1 to 3 meters.

Traditionally, the Didgeridoo was played mostly by men at corroborries.

Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal Art Kangaroo

Aborigines of Australia have been telling their story through art for thousands of years.

Dreaming is the way Aboriginal people explain life and how their world came into being. It's central to their existence, their lifestyle and their culture. It defines their values and beliefs.

Aboriginal art symbolizes the beliefs of the people and it represents the Dreaming. It's often a vital part of ceremonies.

Activities like dancing, singing, body decorations, sand drawings, making implements or weaving baskets were not considered to be separate activities.

All of these activities were a part of the Dreaming and a part of normal daily life.

Depending on where they come from, depends on the type of painting and the materials available to them. This is why you'll see so many different styles of Aboriginal art.

Today, Australian Aboriginal art is still very much a part of their culture.

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