Aboriginal Hunting and Gathering

Aboriginal people lived on hunting and gathering.

Australian Aboriginal People were hunters and gatherers.

Typically, women were gatherers and they collected plants and insects, while men were hunters and they hunted animals.

Men in Aboriginal Hunting and Gathering

Aboriginal men hunted birds and animals such as kangaroos, emus, wallabies, pademelons, possums, parrots, cockatoos, snakes, lizards, goannas, bats, bandicoots, echidnas and bush turkeys. Coastal people also fished and caught water animals such as whales, dugongs, stingrays and turtles.

aboriginal hunting
  Aboriginal hunting by Matthew Burns via Flickr.com

Hunting Techniques

As with many other things like food, weapons, clothes and the local culture, Aboriginal hunting techniques depended on where in Australia the tribe lived. Because Australia is a large country covering various climatic regions from inland deserts to tropical rainforests and snowy mountains, the conditions and resources were very different for different tribes. The tribes in deserts for example hunted large kangaroos and emus, while coastal communities ate a lot of seafood, and also large marine animals like turtles, dugongs and whales.

Coastal vs Inland

In the inland tribes, Australian indigenous people were very clever animal trackers. They could tell from the grass where large animals had passed recently and in what direction they had gone. In these areas men often hunted in groups when they had to kill large animals. They often used hunting boomerangs to damage the knees of kangaroos, and cut through the neck of emus. In the coastal areas, much of hunting was done in the water. There, indigenous people were very clever using harpoons and spears when killing dugongs and whales but also fish and other smaller sea animals.


To let Aboriginal People to live in their traditional way, they are still allowed to catch these animals and do some whaling. This is of course nothing like the scale of commercial whaling that once was going on. Aboriginal people were traditionally very sustainable and well aware of the fact that resources wouldn’t last if hunted too much or in wrong seasons. After all, they could live in Australia for tens of thousands of years and make sure the food resources would always last.

Women in Aboriginal Hunting and Gathering

Women gathered small animals, seafood, insects, mushrooms and plant food. And just because gathering is physically less demanding, didn't mean that women didn't need techniques, skills and knowledge. In fact, in many ways they needed to know more than their men.

Firstly, they needed to know where to find the bush tucker. Apart from the plants, they also knew how to extract sugar, salt and other spices.

Secondly, a lot of Australian plants are poisonous so extensive knowledge of plants was needed. They also knew in which poisonous plants the poisons could be removed, and how to do it.

Sustainable Hunting and Gathering
And finally, just like with hunting, they knew how to collect sustainably. There were cetrain seasons to collect and avoid collecting each species to make sure the supplies lasted.


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