Aboriginal Culture

"Australian Aboriginal culture dates back thousands of years, possibly 50,000 or more, as estimated by scientific analysis of archaeological sites."

The traditional Aborigines inhabiting the Australian continent, prior to the British colonisation, lived off the land and were one with nature. The Australian outback was their home and they survived utilizing the flora and fauna as food, medicine, tools, weapons and shelter.

Aboriginal Lifestyle

Aborigines lived a nomadic lifestyle and followed the food and the seasons. They lived in harmony with the environment and appreciated its beauty and resources. They lived the camping lifestyle, resting in naturally formed caves or constructed shelters made from tree branches, leaves and bark.

Tools and Instruments

Aborigines made useful tools and instruments from the wood and rocks in their bushlands and hunted for food, changing locations often before resources became depleted. They lit fires by rubbing sticks together, made musical instruments from hollow wood, painted rock art with earthy colours from the land and lived in groups or tribes, sharing everything unconditionally. They made good use of what they had and lived their lives as best they could in the harsh Australian outback.

Carved and Decorated Aboriginal Tools

Hunters and Gatherers

The men and women were hunters and gatherers. The men hunted with spears and boomerangs for kangaroos, emus, possums, wombats, bandicoots, goannas, birds and many other native animals. The women gathered edible plants with nuts, seeds and fruits, insects such as witchety grubs, ants and moths and bird and reptile eggs. They knew what was poisonous and what wasn’t. The tribes inhabiting coastal areas were good fishermen and hunted for dugongs, turtles and fish and collected oysters, mussels, clams and other shellfish.

Australian Aborigines Readying Stone Pointed Spear with Spear Thrower Used to Throw Spear

Aboriginal Corroboree

The tribes respected each other’s territories and kept to their own areas unless socialising for dance festivals or religious events. The Corroboree, is where Aborigines gathered together to dance and sing, as rituals, self expression and representation of beliefs. They’d paint their bodies with colours from the earth and perform together to the sounds of didgeridoos and singing sticks. The women would weave headwear from leaves and bush string. A lot of elaborate work went into these sacred rituals and they were performed for many different reasons and occasions, both happy and sad.

Aboriginal Dance, Australia

The Dreamtime

The Dreamtime was celebrated often. It represents the beliefs of Aboriginals as to how the world was created. Their spiritual ancestors, believed to be supernatural beings, rose from beneath the ground and went about creating the landscape, the elements, the animals and the people themselves. After creating everything on earth they returned to their state of sleep beneath the surface. Some became certain parts of the landscape, which became sacred sites, permitting only certain elders entry. Dreamtime was expressed frequently through their music, dance and artwork and today is referred to as the “dreaming.”

Barrginj, Wife of Namarrgon the Lightning Man, a Supernatural Ancestor at Aboriginal Rock Art Site

Aboriginal Culture Changes

Australia’s Aboriginal culture was changed forever when colonisation occurred in the 18th century. These people living off the land were suddenly faced with foreign settlers introducing land ownership rights, foreign language and an unfamiliar way of life. The simple life became not so simple.

Unfortunately there were also racial issues and many children were taken from their families and fostered to other homes from as early as the 1950’s and into the 1970’s. “The Stolen Generation”, as commonly known, is an understandably sore spot for Australia’s Aboriginal culture. Governments allowed aboriginal children to be taken from their families and either institutionalized or fostered out to white families, apparently for their own good. It is estimated that 10-30% of indigenous children were taken. After years of heartbreak and emotional suffering, Australia’s Aboriginal population managed to initiate a National Inquiry in 1995. This was to have the truth be heard by many of us who didn’t realize or understand the extent of their pain and loss. In 1997 the “Bringing Them Home” report containing disturbing evidence was released. The report made several recommendations, one being a formal apology by the Australian Government, which was refused until a new government was elected during late 2007. In February 2008, the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, recognized and officially apologized for the indignity, degradation, pain and suffering inflicted upon these families and communities.

Young Aboriginal Boy with Shovel Nose Fish, Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia

Aboriginal Art

Over the years the Australian Aborigines have had to encounter much change, but they have held onto their Aboriginal culture, unity and passion. They cherish their heritage, as we all do. Their national parks all over the country are scenic and magnificent. Their artwork, whether it be ancient paintings in national parks or modern day art sold in galleries, is creative and fabulous. They’ve passed down their talents through generations and captivated the essence of Australia in their creations.

Aboriginal Man Pointing to Rock Art Talks to Researcher

Painting of Aboriginal Artwork, Northern Territory, Australia

Sacred Sites

Australia's Indigenous population keep their traditional sacred sites close to their hearts and also share the natural wonders and the stories behind them with us all. The likes of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) are just a couple worthy of mention.

Ayers Rock, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Mount Olga, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Aboriginal Flag

The Aboriginal Flag is also of great importance to the Indigenous people of Australia. The trials and tribulations their racial symbol has encountered over the years have seen trying times. After rejection, controversy and finally the approval of the Aboriginal Flag and its significant colours, it is now celebrated by many. The top black half of the flag stands for the Indigenous people, the yellow circle in the centre represents the sun, and the bottom red half depicts the land.


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