10 Things You Should Know About Aboriginal Australia
Australia is home to the oldest living culture on Earth. Every part of Australia is Aboriginal country and every part of that country has stories and experiences that are unique to it.
With over 60,000 years of culture to explore, where should you start? We put together our top 10 things we think you should know.
- Always was, always will be Aboriginal land
The term Terra nullius meaning ‘land that belongs to no one’ was used by the British empire, rather than acknowledging that the land was occupied and used as a mechanism to avoid establishing a Treaty. Britain acted as it were settling an empty land, while relying heavily on the Aboriginal people for water and food sources.
The High Court’s Mabo judgment in 1992 overturned the Terra Nullius fiction.
- We are one, but we are many
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people belong to distinct social groups— prior to British arrival there were over 500 hundred different nations each with its own language, culture and beliefs. Although there is some overlap and many similarities, there are many important differences between these distinct communities that each inhabit their own unique ‘Country’.
- We’ve been around a while
Archaeological evidence has proven, time and time again, that we have inhabited this continent for at least 60,000 years, making our culture the oldest continuously surviving civilisation on earth.
- We were sustainable before it was a buzzword
Our culture is steeped in a deep emotional connection to Country. Our ecological knowledge and connection has let us survive and thrive; find food in every climate and season; understand medicinal properties of plants; and undertake intricate land management using including fire, to increase the types of animals and plants available.
Nothing went to waste, everything had a purpose.
- We’ve been in business a while
Communities had established a complex web of trade routes all over the continent.
Stones, ochres, tools, ceremonial items and other resources that were not available in one area could be obtained through trade from another. Trade required people from different areas and different cultures to respect each other, boundaries and cultural differences. It enabled positive relationships between neighbouring clan groups and was good for settling disputes between warring groups, meeting to discuss lore and for sharing gifts of respect.
Today, the Indigenous business sector is continually growing with more and more people getting involved in the start-up eco system. Indigenous business on the rise
- Indigenous culture isn’t confined to the Outback
Despite the image of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that is often depicted, Indigenous culture doesn’t simply exist in the bush. Almost 35% of Indigenous Australians live in major cities—plus 44% in regional towns and 21% in remote areas—meaning that Australia’s First Peoples are very present in urban life along with our culture.
- Have you seen our art? It’s amazing.
Our artwork tells our stories, dance and songs, helping us pass on vital information and preserve culture.
Aboriginal rock painting is the longest unbroken art tradition on earth, with creations in the Narwala Gabarnmang rock shelter in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory dated at 28,000 years. Aboriginal art continues to thrive, with prominent galleries in places like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Central Australia.
One of the most famous artists is Albert Namatjira. The first Aboriginal person to be granted conditional Australian citizenship. This entitled him to limited social freedoms and to live in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), although he was prohibited from purchasing land. Find out more about him – Artist Albert Namatjira
- Our language
These hundreds of different groupings are largely defined by the language they speak. When the British brutally colonised their territory in the 18th-century, around 250 different Indigenous languages were spoken around Australia, and well over 100 are still in use today.
- Bush tucker
Bush tucker, or bush food, is food native to Australia. Aboriginal people used the environment around us for generations, living off a diet high in protein, fibre, and micronutrients, and low in sugars. Much of the bush tucker eaten then is still available and eaten today. Authentic Australian food
Today, the flavours of Australia are being incorporated into dishes world wide. Check out this collection of recipes using some of Australia’s finest native ingredients, from lemon myrtle and warrigal greens to kangaroo carpaccio and salted fish with native peppercorn
- We can run, kick, punch, throw it out of the park when it comes to sport
We’ve got some INCREDIBLE men and women athletes, sport starts and Olympians! From darts, motorsports, swimming, tennis, boxing, football and gold at the 400m 2000 Olympics It’s a pretty long list we so check it out here – A (long) list of Indigenous sports stars
With so much more to discover, we love you to take you out on country with Aboriginal guides keen to share their story and give an insight into our culture.
Bringing the landscape around us to life allowing you to gain a deeper appreciation of Australia.