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Aboriginal Australians - Australia's Indigenous People

Here we are going to focus on the native people of Australia, the Aboriginal Australians, by highlighting their traditions, culture, history and present day life. We have a lot of online resources about Aborigines. Here, however, you are invited to do some assignments and research on your own.

Map over Australia. Illustration.

The indigenous people of Australia are called Aboriginal Australians.They came from Asia to Australia around 50 000 years ago, and around 20 000 years before that, groups migrated from Africa to Asia. At the time of white settlement in Australia there were many different Aboriginal tribes scattered all over the country, and more than 250 languages were spoken. The Aboriginal culture was expressive and rich in symbols. When the British arrived in 1788, they carried a lot of viruses and bacteria with them. Thousands of Aborigines died of smallpox and other diseases, and tribes were driven off their land into the territory of other tribes. At its lowest, in 1900, the Aboriginal population numbered around 93 000. Today the number exceeds half a million. (The total population of Australia is about 23 mill.)

Find Out

What are the pictures in the right hand column related to? And what part of Aboriginal culture do they reflect on? Choose two of the pictures and write one paragraph about each.


The People

Australian Aborigines

The Australian Aborigines were divided into numerous tribes and had developed distinctive cultures and languages. Some of these tribes were as different as many European peoples are today.

  1. Give a short description of one of the main aboriginal tribes where you include their history, location and ways of living. Is it possible to trace their present-day situation?

The Stolen Generations

From the first white settlement there was an assimilation policy where Aboriginal children were placed into missions or families to adapt to white standards of living, and thus leave some of their aboriginal origin behind. Children were taken from their parents by force, and had no say in this matter. These generations of children are often referred to as the Stolen Generations.

In the following link you can listen to and watch authentic narratives by Aborigines who belong to the Stolen Generation.

Testimonies from the Stolen Generations

If you want more background information, you could watch the films or trailers from The Rabbit-Proof Fence or Australia. You could also read autobiographies, like Wandering Girl.

  1. Pretend you are an Aboriginal child in the 1950s, and you have been taken away from your family. Tell the story from the point of view of the child, the parents and the mission.


Art is a way of communicating your cultural identity. The Aborigines are renowned for their art. Traditionally art is linked to the Dream Time, which illuminates the story of creation, myths and preservation of the Earth.

Water Painting

The artist in the picture has laid out her colours for you to use. Use some of these colors and write your name by means of dot painting.

Dot painting
Dot painting
Rock art
Rock Painting
Rock carving
  1. Study the three different art expressions. What do these pictures reveal about the Aboriginal way of communicating?
  2. Use the web to find information about a contemporary Aboriginal artist. Give a brief portrait of this artist.


Dreaming has its origin in Dreamtime, and is an expression of spirituality, myths and legends for Aboriginal Australians. It is a complex system of traditions, ancestors, land, beliefs, creation and eternal perspectives. Dreaming defines everyday life, holy sites, art and history.

  1. Since 1965 the sacred sites have been protected by law. Two of the holy sites are Kakadu National Park and Uluru in the Red Center. Find out as much as possible about one of these places. Make a timeline of the place, with special focus on Aboriginal traditions and events.
  2. Think about a dream you have had, and try to express your dream through dot painting.
  3. Watch the film Australia, and focus closely on the aboriginal traditions. What do you learn about dreaming/dreamtime?