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Aboriginal Australians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aboriginal Australians
Australian Aboriginal Flag.svg
Total population
759,705 (2016)[1]
3.1% of Australia's population
Regions with significant populations
 Northern Territory30.3%
 Western Australia3.9%
 New South Wales3.4%
 South Australia2.5%
 Australian Capital Territory1.9%
Several hundred Indigenous Australian languages, many no longer spoken, Australian English, Australian Aboriginal English, Kriol
Majority Christian (mainly Anglican and Catholic),[2] large minority no religious affiliation,[2] small numbers of other religions, various local indigenous religions grounded in Australian Aboriginal mythology
Related ethnic groups
Torres Strait Islanders, Tasmanian Aboriginals, Papuans
Aboriginal dwellings in Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, 1923. Image: Herbert Basedow
Aboriginal dwellings in Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, 1923. Image: Herbert Basedow

Aboriginal Australian is a collective term for all the indigenous peoples from the Australian mainland and Tasmania.[3][4][5] This group contains many separate cultures that have developed in the various environments of Australia for more than 50,000 years.[6][7] These peoples have a broadly shared, though complex, genetic history,[8][9] but it is only in the last two hundred years that they have been defined and started to self identify as a single group.[10][11] The exact definition of the term Aboriginal Australian has changed over time and place, with the importance of family lineage, self identification and community acceptance all being of varying importance.[12][13][14] In the past Aboriginal Australians also lived over large sections of the continental shelf and were isolated on many of the smaller offshore islands, once the land was inundated at the start of the inter-glacial.[15] However, they are distinct from the Torres Strait Islander people, despite extensive cultural exchange.[16]

Today Aboriginal Australians comprise 3.1% of Australia's population.[17] They also live throughout the world as part of the Australia diaspora. Before extensive European settlement, there were over 200 Aboriginal languages.[18][19] However, today most Aboriginal people speak English, with Aboriginal phrases and words being added to create Australian Aboriginal English (which also has a tangible influence of Indigenous languages in the phonology and grammatical structure). They have a number of health and economic deprivations in comparison with the wider Australian community.[20][21]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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How good are you at throwing a boomerang? Such a stereotypical question! when was the last time you encountered casual racism? every bloody Uber... 'where you from?' and I'm just like: 'I'm Aboriginal' and they're like: 'but you don't look Aboriginal.' and then I'm like 'well you didn't look racist till you said that!' and they're like: 'okay sorry, I'm just gonna drive.' Why is dancing so important in Indigenous ceremonies? What happens if you're a bad dancer? Wouldn't know. Dancing is about telling our stories and also passing on our history so it's very important that as a young person you learn those dances coming through into adulthood and once you learn them you know them for life. There's no such thing as a bad dancer. Indigenous ceremonial dance is about the ceremony it's not a performance so you're not trying to look good for anyone, you're participating in sacred ceremony so it's not about being good or bad, there's no such thing Yeah, you're doing it to honour the old people your mob, yourself, your family. It's not really about being a bad dancer. Are you a good dancer? No, I'm not a good dancer. Is it ever okay to ask someone how Aboriginal they are? I get this all the time. Short answer is no. Can I just answer it flatly straight no, it's never okay to ask somebody how Aboriginal they are. It's quite, it's very offensive to ask that question. If you look at our history there's a reason why people aren't 100% Aboriginal and that's really heart-breaking. it doesn't matter the colour of your skin, or anything like that I guess that's another stereotype, you have to be black, like dark, to be Aboriginal. and people don't realise that we lose our skin colour in each generation and things like that so that's probably one of the ones we cop all of the time, 'how black are you?' You don't ask somebody how much Anglo-Saxon they are, or how much Irish or how much Welsh it doesn't even come into consideration. I think there's a lot of people at the University who have asked me that and, yeah I think they just think it's okay, because it's a matter of curiosity Absolutely a matter of curiosity and I understand that as well, but to answer this question, no. I think it opens up to you having to justify yourself and justify how much you are or how much you feel, it's just kind of taking away from who you really are and your identity. If somebody said to you 'I'm of Aboriginal heritage' pretty much it should be expected that you just accept that statement. It's like the coffee, you know, you have your long blacks, you have your flat whites whatever it's put as much milk in as you want, but it's still that coffee. How good are you at throwing a boomerang? How good are you? Crap. Pretty bad. I won't even try. I can't throw anything, let alone a boomerang. It's such an art skill. Such a stereotypical question! one time I threw it and it came back and hit me in the head so not that great. And you've got to think about it, they were used as a hunting tool basically to cause an injury to a lower limb of an animal so we actually don't have that much of a purpose for them anymore. What do you think about the commercialisation of boomerangs though anyone can buy one and throw it. Sorry... I can't walk into an antique store and see 65,000 identical factory-made boomerangs I just, I think that's incredibly wrong. What is one stereotype that needs to stop? That's hard, there's more than one. There's plenty, petrol sniffing, all blackfellas on the dole, yeah the list goes on. We get stereotypes all the time. I hear it every day, we had one just yesterday 'you get free stuff from the government.' I wish they paid my university degree, I still wouldn't have a HECS debt, and I wish they gave me a car like people think we get cars or free home loans, it keeps going on and on. All Indigenous people are drunks and that they, you know, live in the bush and they don't know how to live and they can't live in houses. We sleep in parks. Like, I sleep in a house. I've never lived out bush. The only time I'm sleeping outside is when I'm going bush, going camping and everything. That's about it. I think one of the biggest stereotypes, I agree is that Indigenous people are the lower-rank in society. Indigenous people can be successful businessmen, academics, anything that they want to be and I think it's very important for people to recognise that and to understand that Indigenous people will never just fit into one box like we make up 3% of the population and we come from all walks of life and you'll never meet two Indigenous people who are the same and who have the same sort of mixes of cultural and Western life, it's just never gonna happen. What do you do on 26 of January? Yabun Festival. Yabun Festival. Yabun. Yabun. Yabun means to make music with a beat. Every year I go to that. You know that everyone's gonna be there, it's a gathering spot. But I also go to community and have a yarn with the mob at Redfern they do a protest march, I don't really do those protests much these days, but it's still good to talk to the elders about what they've gone through and why they're doing that march, and I think it educates people as well about what the day means. Like people think 26 January has always been Australia Day – the first Australia Day was in July so it's crazy that we can't change that date. And it still brings a lot of sorrow to our people and I think it's something that's got to be done, something has gotta change. Obviously, I don't celebrate this date. I think it's incredibly wrong to celebrate on this date. I will sit at home watching TV. I mean yeah, it's nothing new, you know? You'll remember what happened, being Aboriginal and everything you think back on things like that and just process it through your mind. People who march, it's awesome and it's great that they're willing to stand up for what they think should be changed and they can, they're happy to show their support that way I don't march because I don't feel like I should be there but I come to the after thing so that I can support that way and be seen around. I had quite a few debates with my friends about this this year, actually. I don't do anything. I haven't really been to many protests because I don't think that violence or yelling is the way to resolve things but at the same time I'm not going to go out and celebrate. But we should change the date. 100%. Is it the Dreaming or Dreamtime? Do all Aboriginal people believe in the same thing? And what's the deal with the snake? what's the deal with Kinyaha? Our ancestors, we say, exist in the Dreaming but these are our Dreamtime stories. The snake collectively in history is the oldest known religious relic. Cultures all around the world have a connection to a creation serpent, which is what the Rainbow Serpent is for us slithering through the land creating the land masses and rivers No, not all Indigenous people maintain the same beliefs, there are a lot of Christian Indigenous people, Agnostic, Catholic, Buddhists, my family's Catholic, and that just happens when you're living in such a multicultural country. What's the one thing about Indigenous people or culture that others can't seem to understand? One, I can't pick one. I could say a lot about this one. Well, there's a lot that people don't understand, that's why we're here. I think the most annoying thing for me is the 'what percentage are you?' question. If there's anything I could ask people to stop asking, it's that. Friends of mine always talk to me, and I've grown up very middle-class, white Australian So from 10 years old I went to a school where I was the only Indigenous child and I went right through high school, and even now as an older person a big thing that my friends ask me is like 'why don't we know about these Indigenous things, these Aboriginal stories?' or 'why aren't they shared' or 'why aren't things marked?' and it's pretty much, you know, because there's stories in our lives that we don't have to share, because they're our own stories and it makes the story a little more watered down once we share it with people because then people share it on, and changes its meaning. Our connection to the land. We don't own any land, which a lot of people misunderstand we're with the land, we're one with the land, there's no ownership in our old ways. Yeah and with that, you get so attached to it, you know like I come from footy circles and everyone blows up every now and then because certain people get home sick and want to go home, and they don't understand it but uh, it's incredibly hard to be taken off the land. As an example from where I'm from, there's a particular type of fish that you can peel its stomach out and splay it open and it shows the root system that that fish's eggs were actually laid on which then has implanted into that animal's lining of its gut. That is the type of connection and strength that our people have for the natural environment and that's what I feel like mining companies and these big entities that want to pillage the land for their own benefit aren't really understanding, and Indigenous people around the globe and particularly in Canada as well, have that understanding that we need to think forward for those next generations, it's not about our needs or our children's needs, we've got to think beyond that. Our culture's the oldest living one in the world, I mean and people don't understand how long we've been on this earth, how our stories were told in the past, what happened to us as well, our culture, we've got no language back home where I'm from, it's only two hours north of here and there's no language. And I know that myself and other people in the community are actually trying to bring that back, and trying to bring our language back. If you look at the language map, you've probably all seen that, you'll see that out of that there's not many that are still active. Not sure if you guys speak traditional language up there or anything? My mother's country is Palm Island, so that was one of the main settlements and everything, where they sent everybody as punishment you know, and since then culture's been lost. I'm so inspired by the strength and resilience of such a people and that's one thing I would love for all of Australia to be able to see how incredible and rich this culture is. How do Indigenous relatives work? Why is everyone a cousin, auntie or uncle? Cause we love each other. You're an auntie to me. That's right, exactly, and she has been asked many times 'is she really your auntie?' Because we don't look alike at all. It's a complex system but basically we're all family. With Indigenous culture as well, it's not believed that your birth mother can give you all the vital tools you need for your entire life I mean it's not true, so you have kind of like an array, all your aunties are your mothers as you have this collective of leaders in your life you really are equipped for the array of things that you do experience throughout your life. As soon as she met me she said to me 'can I call you auntie?' and I said 'course you can!' I felt so respected that the students call me that and I know that they can come to me and ask me anything and you know it's not just school work-related, it's family or whatever you know everything like that so it's such a nice thing for me to have that respect from the students. She definitely earns it. To me, calling someone my auntie or uncle, they don't even have to be like, you know, Indigenous, I'll still call her my auntie or uncle out of respect. When was the last time you encountered casual racism? How do you deal with it? Oh, I get it every day on the bus. I mean Sydney's full of it if you're, yeah, if you're Indigenous. And if you don't think it is you joking yourself. We cop it all the time, I'm pretty thick-skinned, I've copped it all my life. I travel in from the Northern Beaches and I sit on the bus and I will be the last person that people will sit next to on the bus, pretty much both ways, that's an hour trip. I've had people who've had like a broken leg, or are on crutches and they've decided to stand because they didn't want to sit next to me. And it actually makes you feel like shit, it makes you feel like you are insignificant. Got asked yesterday how Aboriginal I am, I guess... that still hurts a lot, when people want to question who you are based on the colour of your skin. Racism in Townsville that is like... that's hard being from Townsville, and being my age cause Townsville is like juvenile delinquency, all that, so if you get seen walking with your like, you know, with a group of other black people and they they constantly will keep their eye on you, and just watch your every move and everything and that was actually the last time I encountered racism too when I was at home so, I dunno, Sydney's been good to me. That's a big one too you know, people you know 'you're at university are you really Aboriginal or are you just there for the benefits?' Who is your hero? Oh, Uncle Max Hands down Uncle Max, here he is, right here, got his shirt right on now. Love you Uncle Max. That's our grandfather and our teacher, our master and he's taught us pretty much everything. It's Goodesy for me, Adam Goodes. He's so cool. Martin Nakata, he's the first ever Torres Strait Islander to get a PhD, he's a good friend of mine and the leadership he showed, that's why I'm still working in the higher education sector. I could've gone and worked in corporates and things like that. That's who my hero is, my nan because she was somebody who from early on in life was really passionate and dedicated to education but because of the laws and policies she actually was denied the right to go to school so that meant she ended up missing out on quite a lot of formative years of education and learnt to read off rubbish at the tip, jam jars, sauce bottles, all that kind of stuff she sort of had an understanding that she had a role to play in terms of fighting for the rights of our people in the classroom because we should be entitled to have an education. I feel like with her in my strides I can actually do anything for my people. What can we do to try and make up for the past? I think education is the most important thing from everything from Australia Day to casual conversations that you have with people I think knowing more means that you'll be able to approach things better. The main thing is just to, before you try and act just shut up and listen. Get educated. the only way we can really move forward in all of this and closing the gap, Reconciliation, whatever, white Australia needs to understand. Well, first of all, you can stop saying 'it's in the past get over it. I wasn't here it wasn't my fault.' You know, you can't exonerate yourself from a history when that history still affects the present day. It was not that long ago 30, 40 years ago that we were still classed as plants and animals and people wonder, like they're still like 'get over it' it's like, well actually it's not that easy. It's quite close in my generations as well, my dad was stolen so you can't tell me that's ancient history if I don't get to know any of my family or my grandmother or my cousins, I don't think it's fair to hold people accountable for things that happened so long ago, and it's not constructive, and I think the best thing to do moving forward is to just be compassionate and respectful of one another. I think about the education system, and I think about the National Curriculum creating a space for the teaching of historical incidences which then inform why our people are the way we are today but again it has to be designed and delivered in a way that is inclusive that's not a blame and shame game because we know that that's not worked in the past and it's obviously not going to float in the future. I think it's just being part of our journey, acknowledging the past, we can't change what happened but there's a lot of people out there who try and say 'oh, it's the best thing–' I heard someone say the other day it's great for people to be taken from their families like if that was on their fort, would they like that like? Being taken from your white family cause you're white. Yeah there was a thing on Sunrise about that and the lady actually like made the suggestion to have a second Stolen Genration I was like looking at her like 'what the?!' I hear that all the time 'but I'm not racist' when they make these kinds of comments. We're still human. And people don't want to talk to us sometimes cause were different but we're the same as everyone else. It's like we come from another planet or something. Just have a yarn with us. We're not gonna bite. What obstacles stand between Indigenous kids and higher education? Well, a lot. Getting the big questions. Gosh, where do I start? White privilege. There's still a little bit of like those students will go to school and they're not given enough information about the services that are provided within universities or even that government provides for them at school to do better. The further out you go into the more remote places the harder it gets, the less resources that are dedicated, the less time given. They're forgotten. This varies for a lot of Indigenous kids but it comes down to varying degrees of prejudice. If no one believes that you're going to be there then you're not going to be there and you're just going to fall under what everyone expects of you. Letting go of home to get an education and you know, like just get out of your comfort zone and leave behind your Indigenous, your cultural world. I think it is, it is a confidence issue unlike a lot of other families most Indigenous families don't have anyone who's got a tertiary education, it's quite common and it makes it difficult to break into a world that you have no idea about and when there's no support services made available to you it makes it ten times harder. I was involved in the AIM program which has high school students Indigenous high school students and we bring them all in and we discuss Indigenous success and I think that's such an important aspect in supporting Indigenous kids in entering into tertiary education because for a lot of them they just don't think about it and they have a lot of sports role models but I think having programs where you have academic role models in the Indigenous circle is very important. What's the best part of being Indigenous? This just just reminded me of [singing] "there's nothing I would rather be, than to be an Aborigine." [Singing] "And won't you take my precious land away." I've said it a thousand times– Say it again, say it loud! I think one of the main reasons is the mob I've met, you and all my sisters and my aunties. Everything's great. I guess being connected to culture and we have, we're lucky enough to have great teachers and we're lucky enough to be in a mob that is still very strong culturally and still practices ceremony and to be part of that is, it's like nothing else, that'd have to be the best part of being alive. To hear the land talk to you, to see the ancientness, it's very, very special, it's a privilege. It's definitely the best part. So for me it's at that cellular level, like every part of me is an Aboriginal woman and I'm proud of my heritage and I know that the footsteps that I take have been walked by my ancestors and that they guide me. I'm in education and we've got the textbook for our unit up there and you know they're written in 2017 and they're bringing some stuff into the into pedagogy which we've known for sixty thousand years Being black and deadly. and I think we're pretty black and deadly ourselves so that's another good part. My name is Irene Higgins and I'm a Wiradjuri woman. My name is Mary Waria and I come from Badu Island in the Torres Strait. I'm Jack Field, I'm a Kaurna and Yuin man. I'm Harry Whitting and I'm a Gamilaroi and Yuin man. I'm Jeremy Heathcoate and I'm from the Awabakal nation which is near Newcastle. Kiann Walsh from the Bwgcolman and Birri Gubba tribe, far north Queensland. Hi my name's Simone and I'm a Bundjalung woman. Hi, my name is Bianca Williams and I'm a Barkindji woman.



Legal and administrative definitions

Aboriginal dancers in 1981
Arnhem Land artist at work

A new definition was proposed in the Constitutional Section of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs' Report on a Review of the Administration of the Working Definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Canberra, 1981):

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he (she) lives.[12]

Justice Gerard Brennan in his leading judgment in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) stated:

Membership of the Indigenous people depends on biological descent from the Indigenous people and on mutual recognition of a particular person's membership by that person and by the elders or other persons enjoying traditional authority among those people.[12]

The category "Aboriginal Australia" was coined by the British after they began colonising Australia in 1788, to refer collectively to all people they found already inhabiting the continent, and later to the descendants of any of those people. Until the 1980s, the sole legal and administrative criterion for inclusion in this category was race, classified according to visible physical characteristics or known ancestors. As in the British slave colonies of North America and the Caribbean, where the principle of partus sequitur ventrem was adopted from 1662, children's status was determined by that of their mothers: if born to Aboriginal mothers, children were considered Aboriginal, regardless of their paternity.[22]

In the era of colonial and post-colonial government, access to basic human rights depended upon your race. If you were a "full-blooded Aboriginal native ... [or] any person apparently having an admixture of Aboriginal blood", a half-caste being the "offspring of an Aboriginal mother and other than Aboriginal father" (but not of an Aboriginal father and other than Aboriginal mother), a "quadroon", or had a "strain" of Aboriginal blood you were forced to live on Reserves or Missions, work for rations, given minimal education, and needed governmental approval to marry, visit relatives or use electrical appliances.[23]

The Constitution of Australia, in its original form as of 1901, referred to Aboriginals twice, but without definition. Section 51(xxvi) gave the Commonwealth parliament a power to legislate with respect to "the people of any race" throughout the Commonwealth, except for people of "the aboriginal race". The purpose of this provision was to give the Commonwealth power to regulate non-white immigrant workers, who would follow work opportunities interstate.[24] The only other reference, Section 127, provided that "aboriginal natives shall not be counted" in reckoning the size of the population of the Commonwealth or any part of it. The purpose of Section 127 was to prevent the inclusion of Aboriginal people in Section 24 determinations of the distribution of House of Representatives seats amongst the states and territories.[25]

After these references were removed by the 1967 referendum, the Australian Constitution had no references to Aboriginals. Since that time, there have been a number of proposals to amend the constitution to specifically mention Indigenous Australians.[26][27]

The change to Section 51(xxvi) enabled the Commonwealth parliament to enact laws specifically with respect to Aboriginal peoples as a "race". In the Tasmanian Dam Case of 1983, the High Court of Australia was asked to determine whether Commonwealth legislation, whose application could relate to Aboriginal people—parts of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 (Cth) as well as related legislation—was supported by Section 51(xxvi) in its new form. The case concerned an application of legislation that would preserve the cultural heritage of Aboriginal Tasmanians. It was held that Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, together or separately, and any part of either, could be regarded as a "race" for this purpose. As to the criteria for identifying a person as a member of such a "race", the definition by Justice Deane has become accepted as current law.[23] Deane said:

It is unnecessary, for the purposes of the present case, to consider the meaning to be given to the phrase "people of any race" in s. 51(xxvi). Plainly, the words have a wide and non-technical meaning ... . The phrase is, in my view, apposite to refer to all Australian Aboriginals collectively. Any doubt, which might otherwise exist in that regard, is removed by reference to the wording of par. (xxvi) in its original form. The phrase is also apposite to refer to any identifiable racial sub-group among Australian Aboriginals. By "Australian Aboriginal" I mean, in accordance with what I understand to be the conventional meaning of that term, a person of Aboriginal descent, albeit mixed, who identifies himself as such and who is recognised by the Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal.[28]

While Deane's three-part definition reaches beyond the biological criterion to an individual's self-identification, it has been criticised as continuing to accept the biological criterion as primary.[23] It has been found difficult to apply, both in each of its parts and as to the relations among the parts; biological "descent" has been a fall-back criterion.[29]

Definitions from Aboriginal Australians

Eve Fesl, a Gabi-Gabi woman, wrote in the Aboriginal Law Bulletin describing how she and possibly other Aboriginal people preferred to be identified:

The word 'aborigine' refers to an indigenous person of any country. If it is to be used to refer to us as a specific group of people, it should be spelt with a capital 'A', i.e., 'Aborigine'.[30]

While the term 'indigenous' is being more commonly used by Australian Government and non-Government organisations to describe Aboriginal Australians, Lowitja O'Donoghue, commenting on the prospect of possible amendments to Australia's constitution, said:

I really can't tell you of a time when 'indigenous' became current, but I personally have an objection to it, and so do many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ... This has just really crept up on us ... like thieves in the night. ... We are very happy with our involvement with indigenous people around the world, on the international forum ... because they're our brothers and sisters. But we do object to it being used here in Australia.[31]

O'Donoghue said that the term indigenous robbed the traditional owners of Australia of an identity because some non-Aboriginal people now wanted to refer to themselves as indigenous because they were born there.[31]

Definitions from academia

Dean of Indigenous Research and Education at Charles Darwin University, Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik, has lectured on the ways Aboriginal Australians have been categorised and labelled over time. Her lecture offered a new perspective on the terms urban, traditional and of Indigenous descent as used to define and categorise Aboriginal Australians:

Not only are these categories inappropriate, they serve to divide us. ... Government's insistence on categorising us with modern words like 'urban', 'traditional' and 'of Aboriginal descent' are really only replacing old terms 'half-caste' and 'full-blood' – based on our colouring.[32]

She called for a replacement of this terminology by that of "Aborigine" or "Torres Strait Islander" – "irrespective of hue".[32] It could be argued that the indigenous tribes of Papua New Guinea and Western New Guinea (Indonesia) are more closely related to the Aboriginal Australians than to any tribes found in Indonesia, however due to ongoing conflict in the regions of West Papua, these tribes are being marginalized from their closest relations.[33][34]


Scholars have disagreed whether the closest kin of Aboriginal Australians outside Australia were certain South Asian groups or African groups. The latter would imply a migration pattern in which their ancestors passed through South Asia to Australia without intermingling genetically with other populations along the way.[8]

In a 2011 genetic study by Ramussen et al., researchers took a DNA sample from an early 20th century lock of an Aboriginal person's hair with low European admixture. They found that the ancestors of the Aboriginal population split off from the Eurasian population between 62,000 and 75,000 BP, whereas the European and Asian populations split only 25,000 to 38,000 years BP, indicating an extended period of Aboriginal genetic isolation. These Aboriginal ancestors migrated into South Asia and then into Australia, where they stayed, with the result that, outside of Africa, the Aboriginal peoples have occupied the same territory continuously longer than any other human populations. These findings suggest that modern Aboriginal peoples are the direct descendants of migrants who left Africa up to 75,000 years ago.[35][36] This finding is compatible with earlier archaeological finds of human remains near Lake Mungo that date to approximately 40,000 years ago.

The same genetic study of 2011 found evidence that Aboriginal peoples carry some of the genes associated with the Denisovan (a species of human related to but distinct from Neanderthals) peoples of Asia; the study suggests that there is an increase in allele sharing between the Denisovans and the Aboriginal Australians genome compared to other Eurasians and Africans. Examining DNA from a finger bone excavated in Siberia, researchers concluded that the Denisovans migrated from Siberia to tropical parts of Asia and that they interbred with modern humans in South-East Asia 44,000 years ago, before Australia separated from Papua New Guinea approximately 11,700 years BP. They contributed DNA to Aboriginal Australians along with present-day New Guineans and an indigenous tribe in the Philippines known as Mamanwa.[citation needed] This study makes Aboriginal Australians one of the oldest living populations in the world and possibly the oldest outside of Africa, confirming they may also have the oldest continuous culture on the planet.[37] The Papuans have more sharing alleles than Aboriginal peoples.[clarification needed] The data suggest that modern and archaic humans interbred in Asia before the migration to Australia.[38]

One 2017 paper in Nature evaluated artifacts in Kakadu and concluded "Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago".[6]

A 2013 study by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that there was a migration of genes from India to Australia around 2000 BCE. The researchers had two theories for this: either some Indians had contact with people in Indonesia who eventually transferred those genes from India to Aboriginal Australians, or that a group of Indians migrated all the way from India to Australia and intermingled with the locals directly.[39][40]

An Aboriginal encampment, near the Adelaide foothills, 1854
An Aboriginal encampment, near the Adelaide foothills, 1854

In a 2001 study, blood samples were collected from some Warlpiri members of the Northern Territory to study the genetic makeup of the Warlpiri Tribe of Aboriginal Australians, who are not representative of all Aboriginal Tribes in Australia. The study concluded that the Warlpiri are descended from ancient Asians whose DNA is still somewhat present in Southeastern Asian groups, although greatly diminished. The Warlpiri DNA also lacks certain information found in modern Asian genomes, and carries information not found in other genomes, reinforcing the idea of ancient Aboriginal isolation.[41]

Aboriginal Australians are genetically most similar to the indigenous populations of Papua New Guinea, and more distantly related to groups from East India. They are quite distinct from the indigenous populations of Borneo and Malaysia, sharing relatively little genomic information as compared to the groups from Papua New Guinea and India. This indicates that Australia was isolated for a long time from the rest of Southeast Asia, and remained untouched by migrations and population expansions into that area.[41]

Aboriginal Australians possess inherited abilities to stand a wide range of environmental temperatures. Aboriginal people were observed to sleep naked on the ground in below-freezing conditions where the temperatures easily rose to above 40 degrees Celsius during the day. Aboriginal people of Tasmania would sleep in snow drifts wearing only an animal skin. According to National Geographic magazine, it is believed that this ability is due to a beneficial mutation in the genes which regulate hormones that control body temperature.[42]


Aboriginal Australians have disproportionately high rates[43] of severe physical disability, as much as three times that of non-Aboriginal Australians, possibly due to higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease. In a study comparing Aboriginal Australians to non-Aboriginal Australians, obesity and smoking rates were higher among Aboriginals, which are contributing factors or causes of serious health issues. The study also showed that Aboriginal Australians were more likely to self-report their health as "excellent/very good" in spite of extant severe physical limitations.

In January 2017, The Lancet described the suicide rate among Aboriginal Australians as a "catastrophic crisis":

In 2015, more than 150 Indigenous people died by suicide, the highest figure ever recorded nationally and double the rate of non-Indigenous people, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Additionally, Indigenous children make up one in three child suicides despite making up a miniscule percentage of the population. Moreover, in parts of the country such as Kimberley, WA, suicide rates among Indigenous people are among the highest in the world.[44]

The report advocates Aboriginal-led national response to the crisis, asserting that suicide prevention programmes have failed this segment of the population.[44] The ex-prisoner population of Australian Aboriginals is particularly at risk of committing suicide; organisations such as Ngalla Maya have been set up to offer assistance.[45]

One study reports that Aboriginal Australians are significantly affected by infectious diseases, particularly in rural areas.[46] These diseases include strongyloidiasis, hookworm caused by Ancylostoma duodenale, scabies, and streptococcal infections. Because poverty is also prevalent in Aboriginal populations, the need for medical assistance is even greater in many Aboriginal Australian communities. The researchers suggested the use of mass drug administration (MDA) as a method of combating the diseases found commonly among Aboriginal peoples, while also highlighting the importance of "sanitation, access to clean water, good food, integrated vector control and management, childhood immunizations, and personal and family hygiene".[46]

Another study examining the psychosocial functioning of high-risk-exposed and low-risk-exposed Aboriginal Australians aged 12–17 found that in high-risk youths, personal well-being was protected by a sense of solidarity and common low socioeconomic status. However, in low-risk youths, perceptions of racism caused poor psychosocial functioning. The researchers suggested that factors such as racism, discrimination and alienation contributed to physiological health risks in ethnic minority families. The study also mentioned the effect of poverty on Aboriginal populations: higher morbidity and mortality rates.[47]

Aboriginal Australians suffer from high rates of heart disease. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and among Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal people develop atrial fibrillation, a condition that sharply increases the risk of stroke, much earlier than non-Aboriginal Australians on average. The life expectancy for Aboriginal Australians is 10 years lower than non-Aboriginal Australians. Technologies such as the Wireless ambulatory ECG are being developed to screen at-risk individuals, particularly rural Australians, for atrial fibrillation.[48]

The incidence rate of cancer was lower in Aboriginal Australians than non-Aboriginal Australians in 2005–2009.[49] However, some cancers, including lung cancer and liver cancer, were significantly more common in Aboriginal people. The overall mortality rate of Aboriginal Australians due to cancer was 1.3 times higher than non-Aboriginals in 2013. This may be because they are less likely to receive the necessary treatments in time, or because the cancers that they tend to develop are often more lethal than other cancers.

Tobacco usage

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a large number of Aboriginal Australians use tobacco, perhaps 41% of people aged 15 and up.[50] This number has declined in recent years, but remains relatively high. The smoking rate is roughly equal for men and women across all age groups, but the smoking rate is much higher in rural than in urban areas. The prevalence of smoking exacerbates existing health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The Australian government has encouraged its citizens, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to stop smoking or to not start.

Alcohol usage

In the Northern Territory (which has the greatest proportion of Aboriginal Australians), per capita alcohol consumption for adults is 1.5 times the national average.[citation needed] Nearly half of Aboriginal adults in the Northern Territory reported alcohol usage.[citation needed] In addition to the inherent risks associated with alcohol use, its consumption also tends to increase domestic violence.[citation needed] Aboriginal people account for 60% of the facial fracture victims in the Northern Territory, though they only constitute approximately 30% of its population.[citation needed] Due to the complex nature of the alcohol and domestic violence issue in the Northern Territory, proposed solutions are contentious. However, there has recently been increased media attention to this problem.[51]


Modern Aboriginal Australians living in rural areas tend to have nutritionally poor diets, where higher food costs drive people to consume cheaper, lower quality foods. The average diet is high in refined carbohydrates and salt, and low in fruit and vegetables. There are several challenges in improving diets for Aboriginal Australians, such as shorter shelf lives of fresh foods, resistance to changing existing consumption habits, and disagreements on how to implement changes. Some suggest the use of taxes on unhealthy foods and beverages to discourage their consumption, but this approach is questionable. Providing subsidies for healthy foods has proven effective in other countries, but has yet to be proven useful for Aboriginal Australians specifically.[52]

Aboriginal Australian peoples

Dispersing across the Australian continent over time, the ancient people expanded and differentiated into distinct groups, each with its own language and culture.[53] More than 400 distinct Australian Aboriginal peoples have been identified, distinguished by names designating their ancestral languages, dialects, or distinctive speech patterns.[54] Historically, these groups lived in three main cultural areas, the Northern, Southern, and Central cultural areas. The Northern and Southern areas, having richer natural marine and woodland resources, were more densely populated than the Central area.[53]

Clockwise from upper left: Traditional lands Victoria, Tasmania, Cairns and Darwin.

There are various other names from Australian Aboriginal languages commonly used to identify groups based on geography, including:

See also


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External links

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