Indigenous Australian People – Aboriginal quick facts
Maria Venter – South Africans to Oz
So who exactly are the Indigenous Australian People and where does the term ‘Aboriginal” come from?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are indigenous Australians descending from groups that existed in Australia and surrounding islands before the Europeans arrived!
The word ‘Aboriginal” means ‘first or earliest known, indigenous’.
Population and distribution
It is estimated that before British settlers arrived, the population of Indigenous Australians was approximately 318,000 – 750,000 across the continent, with the majority living along the Murray River in the south-east.
Following European settlement, a 3-year smallpox epidemic, amongst other factors, caused a massive and early depopulation.
Today there are approximately 606, 164 Aboriginals which is only 2.7% of Australia’s population. The indigenous Australian people population is distributed around Australia as follows:
Northern Territory: 29.8%
Western Australia: 3.8%
New South Wales: 2.9%
The Aboriginal flag
What does the Aboriginal flag symbolise?
Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia
Yellow circle – represents the sun, the giver of life and protector
Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and the Aboriginal people’s spiritual relation to the land.
This is the Aboriginal belief system that stretches back into the distant past when the creator ancestors travelled across the land and naming places as they went.
Although there were many different groups, each had their own individual culture and belief structure. However major ancestral spirits that overlapped are the Rainbow Serpent, Baiame, Dirawong and Bunjil.
Once the ancestor spirits had created the world, they changed into trees, the stars, rocks, watering holes or other objects.
Because the ancestors did not disappear at the end of the Dreaming, but remained in these sacred sites, the Dreaming is never-ending, linking the past and the present, the people and the land.
The most well-known sacred site in Australia is the glorious Uluru.
Music & Art
Over the years, music has formed an integral part of the social, cultural and ceremonial observances of these people.
Along with song, the most popular instruments that feature are the didgeridoo and clapsticks.
Traditional indigenous art includes rock painting and engravings, dot painting, bark painting, carving, weaving, sculptures and weaving and string art.
The most recognisable these days are the striking dot paintings which usually portray their Dreamings, previously drawn on the desert sand.
Reconciliation and National Sorry Day
By 1965, all states established citizenship status and confirmed voting rights for all Indigenous Australians.
The first Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, which acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait children were removed from their families.
These children who were removed came to be known as the Stolen Generations.
Both the Reconciliation and Sorry Day focus on healing and bringing about unity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non- Indigenous Australians.
Famous indigenous Australian people
David Unaipon – featured on our $50 note – was famous for his inventions and writing.
Neville Bonner – Austalia’s first Aboriginal politician
Archie Roach – Well known Aboriginal singer/songwriter
Bronwyn Bancroft – Internationally recognised artist and fashion designer
Adam Goodes – Champion AFL player with the Sydney Swans
Evonne Goolagong Cawley – Former World No. 1 female tennis player
Anita Heiss – One of Australia’s most well-known Aboriginal writers.
If you want to learn more about Aboriginal culture then click on the link.
The Australian Government also has a great website about indigenous Australian people.
If you want to learn more about Australia, why not click on the link to our Learn About Oz posts.