Aboriginal Australian Culture

Aboriginal Australian culture is the oldest continuous culture in the world.

It used to be thought that indigenous people had been living in Australia for 40,000 years, today it is believed they have been here for at least 60,000 years.

Aboriginal Australian Culture: Social Organisation
Aboriginal people lived in different parts of Australia in different tribes. These tribes are also called “nations” or “language groups”, because they spoke different languages. There were hundreds of different language groups and most people could speak at least a few different languages. The different tribes sometimes got together on large ceremonies, but they were “different people”. You can almost compare this to different countries. They didn’t normally cross the borders to other peoples’ territories for no reason.

aboriginal culture
  Aboriginal culture by Alexis via Flickr.com

Aboriginal Australian Culture: Social Organisation
Within each tribe, there were different clans. You can almost compare this to different shires within a country, as each had their own territory. When women got married to a member of a different clan, they left their own clan and went to live in their husband’s clan. Within each clan, there were different family groups. These usually consisted of a few families, or an extended family. People within each family group gathered together for everyday activities, hunting and gathering.

Aboriginal Australian Culture: What Is Kinship?
Aboriginal people had complex social and family laws. Every person had their position and obligations in the society, and in a family group. Kinship was one of the main principles in their society. Kinship puts all the people in a relationship to each other. In a family group for example, a mother would call all her nieces and nephews her daughters and sons. This is reciprocal so those kids would all call her their mother (as well as their own mother of course). That means they had similar obligations to them as they had to their own mother, and the aunties had similar obligations towards the nieces and nephews, as they had to their own kids. This can be seen today in the modern society in Australia, when Aboriginal People often call their friends brothers and sisters.

Australian Aboriginal Culture Today
During the past 200 years, big changes have been happening to Aboriginal culture. When first Europeans came to Australia, numbers of indigenous people were reduced by 90% - only 10% remains today of the amount of people that were there in the 1700s. This was mainly due to European diseases and violence. Those who survived were not able to continue with their traditional way of hunting and gathering due to European laws and the fact that the land was taken off them. They all gradually became dependent on Europeans for their livelihood.

Aboriginal Australian Culture and the Stolen Generation
Many families were broken in the stolen generation in the 1900s, and many Aboriginal people today have grown up with their European foster parents. Today there are roughly three different ways they live: there are the remote communities that still pretty much live in the traditional way, even though they now get around by a 4WD. There are the ones in the big cities who have it hard to suit into the society. And there are the ones in between, who have left their traditional culture and live in the modern way but are able to make a livelihood from their art and organise Aboriginal culture tours for tourists and travellers. A lot of the rich and complex culture that had survived for 60,000 years has been changed and much has surely gone lost, because there was no written Aboriginal language – all the knowledge was passed on through generations by storytelling, songs and dance. Today, most Aboriginal People speak English to each other, and it is important to make sure their culture will be preserved.


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