Austrailian Aborigines Essay, Research Paper
Prior to the colonization of Australia by the British in the late 1600’s, large group of natives called Aborigines lived there. They received the name Aborigine due to the translation of the word “the people who were here from the beginning” (Internet, Aboriginal history and culture). The Australian Aborigines occupied the entire Australian continent, which included the large island of Tasmania. By the time the British arrived, the Aborigines established a culture to include Art, multiple languages, social structure, and religious and spiritual ideas. It is very important to understand the land of Australia, and the development of the government, which as change the way of life for these people.
Australia is the smallest of the world’s seven continents and the only one that is comprised of a single political unit. (See Map) The population of Australia is 1,8031,000 with an area of 2,971,081 square miles, (4,753,730 square kilometers), it ranks as the sixth largest country in the world (Oceania, 1995). Australia is divided into seven territories; New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory. The city of Sydney, in New South Wales, is the largest city with a population of 3,500,000.
The natural vegetation of Australia is comprised of six types, rainforest, sclerophyll forest, woodland, grassland, shrubland, and desert. The interior is comprised of desert, shurbland, and grassland. The Northern Territory, the location of most aboriginal clans and tribes, has woodland along the coast and grasslands and shrublands in the interior.
Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory is a very spiritual symbol for the Aborigines. (See Picture) The most important possession of the Aborigines is the land they live on. They have a special connection with everything that is natural. Aborigines see themselves as part of nature (Internet, Culture and Art). They see Ayers rock as a spiritual site because the rock rises from the land with nothing else in site. The Ayers rock was recently given back to the Aborigines, October 1985, but the Australian government has control over the tourism that takes place there.
The legislation regarding the land rights of the Aborigines has been debated for many years in Australia. Until recently the aborigines had few rights. These are the important legislation with regards to Aboriginal land rights.
Legislation with regard to Aboriginal land right
1970 James Cook lands at the cost of Australia where today
there is Sydney. He takes possession of the land because he has the idea of terra nullius” (= land that doesn’t belong to anyone). As they see “not one inch of cultivated ground” they occupy the land in the name of this concept.
1967 An addition to the constitution transforms the right to pass laws concerning the Aborigines from the individual states to the Federal government. The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders get the Australian citizenship.
1975 The Racial Discrimination Act is enacted. It determines the equality of the Aborigines before the law and in daily life.
1976 The federal government passes the first land right law: The Aboriginal Land Right Act. It concerns the Nothern Territories and allows the Aborigines to claim land where a traditionally relationship can be established.
1983 The New South Wales Land Right Act recognizes that land in this state was traditionally owned by Aborigines, and allows them to claim vacant, unused Crown Land.
1980`s The government policy changes from integration to self-determination. The resistance from the governments of the individual states increases. In prisons young black people die and proof is found of racial behavior.
Oct. 1985 Uluru (better known by its European name ‘Ayers Rock’) is officially transferred to the Mutijulu Aboriginal community, on condition that continued access to the
Monolith is guaranteed.
June 1992 The so-called “Mabo” decision from the High Court recognizes the existence of land title before the first European settlement. It says that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders should be able to claim native title if they could show a “close and continuing” relationship with the land in question. That law overturns the concept of “terra nullius”. The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are acknowledged as the original owners of the continent. The “Mabo” decision tries not to disturb lawful
Non-Aboriginal land title.
1993 The government enacts the Native Title Act, which states in a preamble that pastoral leases extinguish Aboriginal land rights. A federal tribunal is founded to validate existing land titles and to decide on compensation if Aboriginal claims are extinct. Most states take over this legislation, except Western Australia, where mining interests are particularly strong and where about 40 per cent of the state could fall subject to native title claims. The government of Western Australia legislates to extinguish all native titles and offers only some “rights to traditional usage” of land.
March 1995 The High Court rules that the Native Title Act is valid, and declares Western Australia’s rival legislation to be unconstitutional. About 33% of the Northern Territory was granted to Aboriginal people on 30th September, 1989. Only in South Australia the Aborigines own larger parts of the land because white people are uninterested in this parts. The Northern Territories are located 1000km from all coasts; they haven’t changed except in the last ten years because of the rising number of tourists. Still the implementation of land rights legislation differs from state to state. Australia has a long way to solve the problem.
Dec. 1996 The High Court of Australia overturns the longheld assumption that Aborigines have no claim to government-owned land leased out for farming and mining activity (so-called pastoral leases). About 40 percent of Australia are leased land. The 4-to-3 decision started heavy discussions between all groups.
(Source-Internet, Chronology of legislation)
The Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas in
1971. The Flag was designed to be an eye-catching rallying symbol for the Aboriginal people and a symbol of their race and identity. (See Flag) The Aboriginal flag was first raised on National Aboriginal day in 1971. The Flag was soon adopted nationally by the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in 1972 (Internet, Aboriginal Flag).
The Aborigines have lived in Australia for many years.
By about 40,000 years ago small groups had arrived by sea, probably traveling from Southeast Asia to the north coast of Australia. Aborigines are dark skinned, with numerous regional variations in their anatomical features and hair colors (Internet, Australian Natives). (See Picture)
Over a long period Aborigines have learned to live in
harmony with bush and desert, expressing their physical and spiritual relationship. They deeply respect the environment through rituals combining picture painting, body painting, story telling and music (Internet, Learn-line). Aboriginal art has been dated back 40,0000 years, found on caves in Australia. Although very common, Aborigines painted on other things than walls. Trees, weapons, didgeridos, and clapping sticks were used for art. Common drawn pictures were of animals such as kangaroos, snakes, dingoes, fish, turtles and lizards. (See Picture) There were three main colors yellow, black, and red. Yellow represents the sun, giver of life. Red represents the earth and their spiritual relationship to the land. Black represents the Aboriginal people (Internet, Aboriginal Flag).
Aborigines are thought to have had at least 200 different languages prior to settlement of the British.
There were 500-600 separate Aboriginal races, which accounted for
the large number of languages. Over time 50 of the known languages have died out due to tribes not using them anymore. The Aborigines have the ability to master multiple languages, which would have been necessary to survive with so many neighbors that spoke different languages. They did not develop any written language as we know it today, but the only way they used writing to document information was through art.
Typically for the Aborigines is to live together in a clan, which consists of 30 to 50 members (Internet, Home of the Aborigines). Each clan has its own land for which it must survive on. On this land they must find everything they need to survive, such as hunting and foraging. These smaller clans make up a larger unit called a tribe, which normally has 25 to 35 clans. Unlike in our Native Indian history, which has a chief, the Aborigines have clan elders that make the decisions. The Characteristics that govern the clans and tribes are the same language, religious rituals, and behavioral instruction.
Within the village the Aborigines use wood and bark to make their huts. (See Picture) All huts had different names and were made for different purposes. Some were semicircular huts used in the wet season, and in the summer leaf shelters and sleeping platforms are used to keep away the mosquitoes (Internet, Culture and Art) Men and women have different roles within the village. The men’s job was to hunt for meat such as kangaroos and other native animals. (See Picture) The weapons they used were the boomerang, for smaller animals, and spears for the larger animals. While the men were hunting the women foraged for food like roots, grubs, shellfish, and other small animals. They used tools such as a digging-stick, basket, and carrying dishes. The digging-stick is a hardwood stick, a meter or more in length used to loosen soil and dig out animals out of their burrows. They are also used to split roots and branches in half to get the insects and their nests inside (Internet, Culture and Art).
Another important role of the women is for childbirth. The mothers take’s care of the newborn until their first birthday, at which it receives a name. At the age of fifteen boys and girls become adults and are ready for marriage. First they go through a ceremony called “Initiation” so that they can become adults.
The girls ceremony begins when she is taken into the bush by an older women of her family. There bodies are painted with earth colors and her arms covered with animal skins, After that painting is finished the girl has to sit up in the tree for the next few days (Internet, The Home of the Aborigines). After a few days have passed, she is given a skirt of emu feathers, which she will wear until she is married. The next step is two young men bite a piece of cake that the girl is holding at the end of two sticks. Then the sticks are burned and she is brought back to her father.
For the boys, the older men of the clan take many boys away from camp and pull out their beard, after they are not allowed to eat or sleep for three days. This is repeated three more times over the next six months. In this time the boys learn a lot about sacred stories, dances and laws before they become men (Internet, The Home of the Aborigines). After the initiation, a large ceremony is held to celebrate the readiness of marriage.
Death in the Aboriginal culture is very important. If an Aboriginal dies, his body is put into a cloth of tree barks. Then either the body is buried or is put on the top of a tree. After one year the Aborigine rescue the bones, which are painted red and placed into a cave (Internet, The Home of the Aborigines). They also burn the hut of the recently deceased because the Aborigines believe that this helps return the spirit to the spirit center.
The Aborigines have had a very rough time since the colonization of the British. They have had to change their lifestyles drastically, and unfortunately have not done well. They are still the poorest people in Australia, but times are getting better. With the new legislation life could improve for these fascinating people.