Facts: Aboriginal People Australia

Facts: Aboriginal People Australia

My favorite aspect about being an Aussie abroad is meeting and chatting with people from different cultures and places. I love to ask questions about their heritage and learn how different places and people came to be. Throughout my travels and conversations I am often asked about Indigenous Australians, the oldest surviving culture in the world. People are fascinated by facts on the Aboriginal people of Australia related their history, spirituality, instruments and artwork.

Ozzies Abroad takes a brief look at facts and figures related to the fascinating history and culture of the Aboriginal people of Australia.

The Beginning

The spirituality of Indigenous Australians is referred to as the Dreamtime. Dreamtime has a beginning but not an end, it is where everything exists forever. The Dreamtime is strongly related to the landscape and topography of the Australian continent. It is the idea that all knowledge is accumulated over time and through a persons ancestors. It encompasses the sacred world and it is the beginning of all knowledge.

Facts: Aboriginal People Australia

Dreamtime is full of mystical beings that traveled across the land before man and created sacred places and sites. Wandjina is the creator and Dreamtime stories cover the creation of the land, seas, animals, people, plants, laws and customs. When Europeans arrived to Australia there were hundreds of regional communities of Aboriginal people with different languages and customs but curiously the oral tradition of the Dreamtime saw many similarities in their stories.

History

The Aboriginal People have inhabited Australia for over 60,000 years. The history of the Aboriginal people before Europeans arrived is a history of mankind itself. It is believed that the Aboriginal people split off from our African ancestors about 70,000 years ago and island hopped to Australia during periods of low sea levels. It is not known if this migration took the form of waves or if it was one large group. Thousands of years ago, mega fauna lived on the continent of Australia and the Aboriginal people shared the land with these animals for a significantly long time. A genetic study in 2011 found that the Papua peoples of New Guinea, Aboriginal and the Mamwanwa peoples of Indonesia have the same ancestor with non mainland Asian people and there is evidence to suggest a genetic flow from India to Northern Australia about 4000 years ago. The Dingo was introduced to Australia about 4500 years ago.

Some Interesting Facts

The term Indigenous Australian refers to Aboriginal People and the Torres Strait Islanders. The word “Aboriginal” means “First or earliest known” and comes from the Latin word “Aborigines”. It is considered derogatory to use the word “Aborigines” therefore the more excepted expression is “Aboriginal Australians” or “Aboriginal people”. However, most Aboriginal people identify themselves under their regional group, there are approximately 20 regional groups that are further sub-divided into hundreds of localized groups. Each group has their own language, customs and culture. The Torres straight Islanders are closely related to the Papua peoples of New Guinea and the islands number over 100.

Facts: Aboriginal People Australia

Before European contact the Aboriginal people were semi-nomadic however some permanent settlements did exist. The Mecassan fisherman of Indonesia traded with Aboriginal people and may have introduced some diseases to the Australian continent before Europeans arrived. Evidence suggest that the population of Aboriginal Australians was in excess of 1.2 million about 500 years ago but was less than half that number when Europeans arrived in 1788. The last uncontacted tribe was the Pintupi people who lived in the Gibson Desert, they lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle until 1984 when they were moved to a settlement.

After European Contact

It is reported that the Aboriginal people welcomed the First Fleet 18 years after Lt James Cook discovered Australia. Sadly, it is fair to say that the arrival of Cook in 1770 marked the beginning of the end for their ancient way of life. A smallpox epidemic shortly after the Europeans arrived decimated the population of Aboriginal people that lived along the Murray River in Southeast Australia.

Facts: Aboriginal People Australia

Relations between the European settlers and the Aboriginal people grew sour over the subsequent years. In 1819, Governor Macquarrie declared total war against the Walpuri peoples of Western NSW and significant efforts were made to completely exterminate them. Many women were forced into prostitution, alcoholism was rife but many convicts also escaped into the bush and embraced the Aboriginal peoples way of life.

By 1900, the population of Aboriginal people had declined to just over 90,000 people. However, by 1995 the numbers had come back up to pre-European levels. The total population of Aboriginal people as of the 2016 census is over 649,000. NSW and QLD are the most populated states with a population of approximately 208,000 and 190,000 respectively. There are over 250 Indigenous Australian languages with many now extinct. Over 1000 Indigenous Australians volunteered to fight for Australia in the First World War.

In 1962, Commonwealth Legislation gave the Aboriginal people the right to vote and in 1992 the Mabo case recognized native land title in Australia. In 1985, the Australian Federal Government returned ownership of Uluru (Ayers Rock) to the Pitjantjatjara people. Reconciliation is a significant issue in Australian politics, in 1999 Prime Minister John Howard drafted a motion of reconciliation but refused to offer an official apology for the mistreatment of Aboriginal people. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued an apology on behalf of the Australian government for the mistreatment of the stolen generation. It is widely desired by modern day Australian peoples of every culture for reconciliation with the Aboriginal people.

Arts & CultureFacts: Aboriginal People Australia

Aboriginal cave art is abundant and can be traced back as far as 30,000 years. Contemporary Aboriginal art started in the desert community of Papunya in 1971 when a school teacher prompted children to paint their stories, this prompted the elders to share their cultural knowledge to outsiders through their art. The beautiful artwork is based on story telling and the Aboriginal artists inherit rights to paint certain stories. Artists such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye have their work displayed all over the world.

The Aboriginal people are also famous for their wind instrument the didgeridoo. The didgeridoo was traditionally used as an accompaniment along with chants, singers and dancers, often in ceremonies.It has been suggested that the Didgeridoo was an adaptation of traded instruments from India and/or Asia, this is possibly why it was mainly used by coastal tribes of the far North of Australia.

Facts: Aboriginal People Australia

The Aboriginal people are also famous for the boomerang. Which is a hunting tool designed to return to the hunter after being thrown. Depictions of boomerangs being thrown at animals, such as kangaroos, appear in some of the oldest rock art in the world.

There You Have It

We hope you enjoyed our article about on the history and interesting facts on the Aboriginal People of Australia. Their history is ancient and sacred and a modern tragedy. Their culture should and must be preserved and respected going forward and their story and art preserved by all. So, share their story with love and respect and support reconciliation. After all, they are the original Aussie battlers.

8 Replies to “Facts: Aboriginal People Australia”

  1. Very interesting article! The aboriginal people in Australia sound familiar to the indigenous people here in the Americas. They lived here for a long time before the Europeans crossed the Atlantic Ocean. I think Christopher Columbus was the first to call the indigenous people in the Caribbean “indians” since he was looking for a different way to get to India than going around Africa. I”ve never been to Australia, but it must have been interesting to meet the aboriginal people.

  2. I also love meeting and chatting with people who come from diverse cultures and backgrounds. I am particularly interested in knowing people’s social history.
    I have really enjoyed reading your article about the history of the Aboriginal People. Also, after they came into European contact.The relations between the European settlers and the Aboriginal people is not something that I have read before, making it interesting. I am looking forward to reading more.

  3. Epic article!

    I live up in the kimberley region of WA and have learnt so much about the land and culture from the aboriginals. My favourite dreaming story and practise is how, when we go to the river we always pick up a rock and put it under our arm for a few seconds. This gets our scent on the rock which we then throw into the water to let the spirits and serpent know it is us and not a stranger. Sometimes a chant in a local language is spoken before we go in.

    If you forget to let the serpent and spirits know you are getting in the water and just jump in, a big wind always picks up and scares you out!

    1. Awesome Jake. That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing. Please drop around anytime and share your experiences with our community.

  4. Thanks for the really interesting article. It’s full of fascinating facts and info about aboriginal Australians. It’s so sad when indigenous populations are forced to change their way of life when settlers move in and take over. Good news to hear that the population number has risen again and steps have been taken to reconcile with the aboriginal people, even though some would say it’s a bit late to make amends. It’s wonderful that so much of their culture and traditional way of life has survived, and hopefully it will continue to survive for long into the future.

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