Interesting Facts about Aboriginal Australians

Are you interested in learning about Aboriginal Australians in a fun and interesting way? To save you from more searching, we’ve put together a list of 20 interesting facts about Aboriginal Australians that would surprise you.

1. Aboriginal Culture is Still Lively Today

Although Aboriginal culture stretches back thousands of years, it is not extinct. Aboriginal people keep their traditions alive through storytelling and art. You will see paintings, sculptures, and carvings for sale that represent traditional stories. Artists are often inspired by stories passed down from their ancestors about creation beings or Dreamtime.

The population is growing as well; it topped 798,000 people today and is projected to reach 1 million over the next two decades. [1]

2. The term “Aboriginal.”

The name “Aboriginal” was given to them by white settlers as a term for all the indigenous peoples of Australia. Some Aborigines accept the term, some prefer to be called Indigenous Australians, and others prefer Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.

3. There is No Singular Aboriginal Culture

Aboriginals belong to different social groups made of various nations. Each nation maintains its own language, culture, and beliefs. There may be overlap and similarities between them, but there are also essential differences that define each group as distinct from the rest.

Similarly, there is no single Aboriginal art style but rather a variety of styles and mediums used to express culture and beliefs. The most famous examples of Aboriginal art include rock engraving (petroglyphs), body painting, and ground designs (geoglyphs). [2]

4. Aboriginal Australians Speak Hundreds of Languages

Before the British colonized Australia in the 18th century, several Aboriginal languages were spoken throughout the country. There are still more than 100 of these languages in use today, each as distinct as every corner of the continent. [3]

In addition to speaking English, Aboriginal people today also speak Australian Aboriginal English (AAE), a dialect that has a tangible influence on their indigenous languages.

5. Aboriginal Australians Have Evolved a lot

Although many Australian Aboriginal cultures are associated with the outback, many Aborigines do not live in remote areas. More than 35% of them live in major cities, 44% in regional towns, and 21% in remote areas. [4]

6. Archaeological Discoveries of Aboriginal Australians

Archaeologists have found several tools made out of stones as well as bones in various places in Australia that date back to 60,000 years ago. Some of these archaeological discoveries include fish hooks made out of bone and wooden spears that were used for hunting kangaroos.

7. Rainbow Serpent is one of the Major Spirits for Aboriginal Australians

The Rainbow Serpent gives life, yet you can take it away if you displease her. She is referred to as the rainbow, or rainbow serpent, and is depicted as a huge python or snake which winds around the land creating mountains, hills, rocks, and many other geographical features. She holds the life-giving water of rain in her body. [5]

The Rainbow Serpent is strongly associated with fertility and rainfall, and she is believed to reside in deep pools of water within rivers and creeks. Some Aboriginal tribes believe that when she travels over the land, she leaves behind a trail of dead vegetation from which new life springs forth. She is also revered as being very wise and knowledgeable. 

In some Aboriginal cultures, it is believed that she created all living things at the beginning of time. These Aborigines refer to her as “Mother” or “Mother Earth.”

8. Aboriginal Culture is Among the World’s Oldest Living Civilizations

Many people believe that civilization began in Mesopotamia around 4,500BC, but Aboriginal Australians have been around for at least 60,000 years, making their culture the oldest surviving civilization on the face of the Earth. [6]

The Aborigines have resisted outside influences for centuries and still maintain a distinct culture today.

9. Aboriginal Australians Possessed Australia Way before the British

Aboriginal people were in possession of Australia way before the British arrived in 1788. They were believed to have arrived from South-East Asia through the Indo-Malayan region around 50,000 years ago and were already settled in various parts of the continent by 30,000 years ago. [7]

10. Aboriginal Culture is Deeply Rooted in Music

Aboriginal musicians have been creating dance music, ceremonial music, and instruments for thousands of years, such as the didgeridoo and clapping sticks. Contemporary Aboriginal bands include Yothu Yindi and Indigenous Australia.

The Didgeridoo was once made from the hollow branches of eucalyptus trees. However, now it is often made from other materials such as plastic piping or wood.

11. Aborigines Pass down their Traditions through Stories

Aboriginal Australians didn’t have a written language. Instead, they passed knowledge through stories and art. Each of their symbols, body paintings, and drawings represents an idea or tells a story about nature, animals, or spirits. In fact, every part of an Aboriginal Australian’s life is expressed through art: their body paintings symbolize their rank in society, while their music is full of dances that represent important events in life such as birth or death. [8]

Dreaming is still a common cultural practice for many Aboriginal peoples across Australia. This connection to the past is passed down through generations in various rituals, songs, and stories.

12. Respect for the Land is a Common Thread Running through Much of Aboriginal Culture

Aboriginal people feel a strong kinship with all living things. Plants, trees, and animals are seen as part of the family, with each species being related to one another. The land is believed to be the source of life, providing all that is needed to exist.

Respect for the land has been described as sacred and as a spiritual mother from whom all life springs. For this reason, Aboriginal people believe that any harm done to their land will have an adverse effect on their families.

As a result of this deep connection with the environment, Aboriginal Australians have developed a great respect for it and are careful not to abuse it in any way. [9]

13. Art is Very Essential for Aboriginal Australians

Aboriginal rock paintings at the Narwala Gabarnmang rock shelter in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory date back 28,000 years and represent the longest unbroken art tradition on earth. Aboriginal artists living today continue to create works that celebrate their culture. There are many prominent galleries in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Central Australia that showcase the work of these contemporary artists. [10]

14. Australia’s First Language

Aboriginal Australians have one of the world’s oldest languages, which is also considered Australia’s first language. Aboriginal Australians have their own rich language, comprising at least 700 dialects and over 100 different languages that vary depending on the group. The most spoken indigenous language is Martu Wangka, with almost 1000 speakers located in Western Australia.

15. Aborigines Never Farmed or Grazed Animals for Food

Instead, they lived off the land and ate whatever was available in their area. Their main source of protein was fish and shellfish; yams, berries, and nuts also supplemented their diet.

In short, aborigines farmed as a hobby rather than a lifestyle.

Conclusion

Myths and stories are truly valuable to any culture. Myths and stories can really help develop an amazing society. Aboriginal Australians were one of the first civilizations on this planet, and their knowledge of survival was truly remarkable. While not much is known about these astounding people, plenty of myths have been told over time, and some people want to continue telling them today.

References

  1. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/profile-of-indigenous-australians
  2. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/culturalanthropology/chapter/indigenous-australian-art/
  3. https://www.commonground.org.au/learn/indigenous-languages-avoiding-a-silent-future 
  4. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples/census-population-and-housing-counts-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-australians/latest-release
  5. https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/articles/rainbow-serpent
  6. http://www.workingwithindigenousaustralians.info/content/History_2_60,000_years.html
  7. http://www.workingwithindigenousaustralians.info/content/History_3_Colonisation.html
  8. https://aboriginalstories.com.au/aboriginal-storytelling/
  9. https://www.australianstogether.org.au/discover/indigenous-culture/the-importance-of-land
  10. https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/australia/articles/11-things-you-should-know-about-indigenous-australian-culture/