Aboriginal Mobs - Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians the first known human inhabitants of the Australian continent and its nearby islands. The term includes both the Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal People, who together make up about 2.5% of Australia's population. The latter term is usually used to refer to those who live in mainland Australia, Tasmania, and some of the other adjacent islands. The Torres Strait Islanders are indigenous Australians who live in the Torres Strait Islands between Australia and New Guinea. Indigenous Australians are recognised by scientists to have arrived between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago, but Aboriginal history says that “we have been here since time began.”
The term Indigenous Australians encompasses many diverse communities and societies, and these are further divided into local communities with unique cultures. Fewer than 200 of the languages of these groups remain in use — all but 20 are highly endangered. It is estimated that prior to the arrival of British settlers the population of Indigenous Australians was up to 1 million.
Indigenous Australians have inhabited the continent for over 40,000 years. They have been here since time began and come directly out of the Dreamtime of their creative ancestors. They have kept the earth as it was on the first day. Their culture is focused on recording the origins of life. They refer to forces and powers that created the world as creative ancestors. This beautiful world has been created only in accordance with the power, wisdom and intentions of their ancestral beings.
According to Aboriginal belief, all life as it is today - Human, Animal, Bird and Fish is part of one vast unchanging network of relationships which can be traced to the Great Spirit ancestors of the Dreamtime.
The Dreamtime continues as the "Dreaming" in the spiritual lives of aboriginal people today. The events of the ancient era of creation are enacted in ceremonies and danced in mime form. Song chant incessantly to the accompaniment of the didgeridoo or clap sticks relates the story of events of those early times and brings to the power of the dreaming to bear of life today.
The Sacred World
The Dreamtime is the Aboriginal understanding of the world, of its creation, and its great stories. The Dreamtime is the beginning of knowledge, from which came the laws of existence. For survival these laws must be observed.
The Dreaming world was the old time of the Ancestor Beings. They emerged from the earth at the time of the creation. Time began in the world the moment these supernatural beings were "born out of their own Eternity".
The Earth was a flat surface, in darkness. A dead, silent world. Unknown forms of life were asleep, below the surface of the land. Then the supernatural Ancestor Beings broke through the crust of the earth form below, with tumultuous force. The sun rose out of the ground. The land received light for the first time.
The supernatural Beings, or Totemic Ancestors, resembled creatures or plants, and were half human. They moved across the barren surface of the world. They travelled hunted and fought, and changed the form of the land. In their journeys, they created the landscape, the mountains, the rivers, the trees, waterholes, plains and sandhills. They made the people themselves, who are descendants of the Dreamtime ancestors. They made the Ant, Grasshopper, Emu, Eagle, Crow, Parrot, Wallaby, Kangaroo, Lizard, Snake, and all food plants. They made the natural elements: Water, Air, and Fire. They made all the celestial bodies: the Sun, the Moon and the Stars. Then, wearied from all their activity, the mythical creatures sank back into the earth and returned to their state of sleep.
Sometimes their spirits turned into rocks or trees or a part of the landscape. These became sacred places, to be seen only by initiated men. These sites had special qualities.
The Human World
We are the Indigenous people of Australia. Aboriginal people are those traditional cultures and lands that lie on the mainland and most of the islands, including Tasmania, Fraser Island, Palm Island, Mornington Island, Groote Eylandt, Bathrust and Melville Islands.
The term "Aboriginal" has become one of the most disputed in the Australian language. The Commonwealth definition is social more than racial, in keeping with the change in Australian attitudes away from racialist thinking about other people. An Aboriginal person is defined as a person who is a descendant of an Indigenous inhabitant of Australia, identifies as an Aboriginal, and is recognised as Aboriginal by members of the community in which she or he lives.
This definition is preferred by the vast majority of our people over the racial definitions of the assimilation era. Administration of the definition, at least by the Commonwealth for the purposes of providing grants or loans, requires that an applicant present a certificate of Aboriginality issued by an incorporated Aboriginal body under its common seal. Sometimes non-Aboriginal people get confused by the great range and variety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, from the traditional hunter to the Doctor of Philosophy; from the dark-skinned to the very fair; from the speaker of traditional languages to the radio announcer who speaks the Queen's English. The lesson to be learned from this is that we should not stereotype people ; that people are different, regardless of race.
Our people, of course, did not use the word "Aborigene" (from the latin ab, origin meaning "from the beginning" to refer to ourselves before the coming of non-Aborigenes. Everyone was simply a person.
Aboriginal groups exchanged natural resources, such as ochres, and tools, such as stone axes and boomerangs, thus creating extensive trading networks. Goods travelled hundreds of kilometres from their original source. For example, boomerangs made in Central Australia would find their way to Arnhem Land and the surrounding islands.
Didgeridoos from Arnhem Land would find their way down to Central Australia. Pearl shells from the Kimberley were traded through Central Australia down into South Australia.
Trading networks were frequently incorporated into formal exchange systems. Large, gatherings of people came together for "exchange ceremonies" where regional specialities were traded. Ritual paraphernalia, sacred ceremonial objects, song verses and dance styles were also passed on from one group to the next at such gatherings.