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AUSTRALIA

~ The First Inhabitants ~

 

Little is known of the early history of Australia's Aboriginal peoples, who have probably lived on the continent for more than 60,000 years. Australia's Aboriginal peoples are not a single homogenous group. There are several hundred distinctly different language and clan groups, who share but a few common words. Many Aboriginal peoples were traditional hunters and gatherers, moving with the seasons and taking with them only possessions necessary for hunting, collecting and preparing food such as the boomerang and the woomera (a spear thrower). There is evidence of more complex land management practices such as controlled burning of grasslands, pointing to sophistication beyond simple hunter-gatherer status.

At the time of contact with Europeans, Aboriginal societies were organised within intricate kinship relationships based on strictly applied laws and observances. Complex marriage customs eliminated inbreeding and maintained kinship ties between clans. Each family was a self-sufficient economic unit with every member having well-defined responsibilities, embedded in a sharing and egalitarian culture. There was no formal government as we know it, and authority was based on knowledge and religious/spiritual experience.

Social control was maintained by way of rights and responsibilities towards other people. Complex systems of belief, finding expression in oral literature, art, songs, dances and social and kinship relationships, bound Aboriginal peoples together. Knowledge of the Dreamtime-the complex and interconnected value system which binds individuals together before birth to after death-was passed from generation to generation to secure the continuance of one of the oldest and most enduring cultures in the world.

As early as the second century AD theories of a great southland or Terra Australis to balance the landmasses of the northern hemisphere were proposed in Europe. Although Chinese and Arab sea captains may have landed in northern Australia before AD 1000, Australia remained unexplored by the West until the 17th century.

European contact with the Australian continent was a by-product of 16th and 17th century mercantile expansion in Asia by Portugal, Spain and Holland. In 1606, Spanish navigator Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the strait which now bears his name. In the same year, a Dutch ship, Duyfken, at Cape York made the first authenticated landing in Australia. In 1642, Dutchman Abel Tasman reached Tasmania, which he named Van Diemen's Land. Other sightings and landings occurred, but it was not until 1770 that the more fertile east coast was sighted by Captain James Cook, of the British Royal Navy.

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The owner and author of this website is not of indigenous descent - and therefore will not provide information on the indigenous viewpoint. This is best left up to the authors of Indigenous websites. I would not want to offend a wonderful culture by writing something incorrect.

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