Tell me about Australian Aborigines

I know next to nothing. What should I know?

They are one of the few cultures that historically never developed into food producers, but rather remained as a hunter-gatherer society. I know that there was a determined effort to marginalize or even kill them off at one time, much like the American Indian.

This is a really good resource (for NSW at least)

The best place to start for stuff like this is wikipedia. Start there, and make sure you follow the links to the original sources.

There’s one basic fact which that document gets wrong. It talks about Aboriginal ad Torres Strait Islander people, but there are three groups of indigenous people in Australia. (And the word “indigenous” is not liked by some Aboriginal ad Torres Strait Islander people, but there isn’t a decent alternative, since the like “native” even less, and “aboriginal” has a more restricted meaning in Australia than it does in, for example, Canada.) The groups are:

The Aboriginal people of Australia, whose ancestors lived on the mainland of Australia, in many groups speaking many different languages.

The Torres Strait Islander people, whose ancestors lived on the islands between New Guinea and Australia, and who are a Melanesian people.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal people, whose ancestors lived in Tasmania, cut off from the mainland by rising seas in the Bass Strait about 10,000 years ago. And yes, there are still people who identify as Tasmanian Aboriginal, though since 1876 all have been partially of European descent and partly of Tasmanian descent.

They suffer higher infant mortality rates and shorter life expectancies than the white Australian population. In remote communities, malnutrition and chronic diseases (especially kidney disease) are rampant. Aboriginal children are less likely to attend school regularly, thus literacy and numeracy achievement is lower than their white peers.

Unemployment and incarceration rates are much higher for Aborigines. Alcoholism and other drug abuse is prevalent, especially again in remote communities, and violence is an ever present issue as a consequence. Some of those communities have become voluntarily ‘dry’ to try to ameliorate the problems…some have had greater success than others.

There have been all sorts of government interventions, programs and funding measures to improve the life and living conditions of Aborigines in recent years. To date none have been overwhelmingly successful.

Good catch! Thanks

Not entirely true, actually. Though hunting and gathering predominated, there was also fish farmingactivity that we know of, and there may well have been other food management activity going on that we’re unaware of either because we haven’t found the evidence of it, or because we haven’t recognised evidence that doesn’t correspond to our preconception of “how farming is done”.
Other stuff…

The Aboriginal community is highly regionalised. Although the greatest numbers live in NSW/Queensland, they are so far dwarfed by the rest of the population (at about 2 or 3 percent) as to be completely marginalised. The Northern Territory is the most Aboriginal section of Australia, with 30% of the population being Aboriginal.

The dispossession of the Aboriginal community was done with considerable violence, much like that of Native Americans in the US, and other indigenous communities. There is still at least one survivor of a genuine no-holds-barred Aboriginal massacre alive today.Resistance was harshly punished

On food cultivation: I have a memory of a documentary that showed Aborigine women digging up an edible root and replanting a piece they had broken off, with the intent that it regrow. The simplest form of cultivation.

Springtime would you really call that cultivation?

I lived for about 2.5 years in an agricultural society where people supplemented their diet with forest tubers like that, which they would collect and then throw bits back in the hole to regroup. no one ever referred to those wild yams as anything other than ‘wild’.

You missed out rather startling rates of child sexual abuse that are added into the equation.

Complicating the matter, there are still rather startling amounts of racism in Australia, and there were a lot of cases of institutional racism in the not very distant past

Indeed. Case in point - Aborigines didn’t get the federal vote until 1962.

I didn’t know that…I was thinking more of “the lost generation”…

But I also know that there is a lot of casual racism on an individual basis

I worked on the Pit Lands for a time (remote central Australian Aboriginal owned lands) What do you want to know?

If you look at it as a spectrum from pure foraging to industrial scale cultivation it’s on the far edge of cultivation. I don’t think it stops the roots being wild as they are not tended in any way.

Except aborigines did manage lands, most notably through fire. Start fires, burn out the brush, and hunting gets easier.

Agriculture didn’t arrive as a bolt out of the blue, it arose from simple techniques like intentionally putting pieces of roots back in the soil, and intentionally scattering a few of the seeds you harvested. And things like noticing incursions of undesirable plants in your favorite berry patch and chopping the weeds back once a year, burning to encourage certain types of plants, and so on. These practices exist on a spectrum.

Anyway, to the extent that Australians practiced agriculture it certainly wasn’t the sort of intensive farming you’d see in the Americas or Europe or Asia or Polynesia.

I don’t have any particular need for knowledge, I just realized in utterly ignorant of the topic. I would live to hear any observations you may have.

They apparently LOVE American country-western music and have developed an amazing music scene based on it. I listened to a program on Sirius a while back showcasing a few of them, and I was quite blown away. A sample :cool:

Aborignal law, family and custom is so completely different from European culture it’s hard for people raised in European cultures to visualise. It’s tied to gender, family and the land.

Two more different cultures could not have clashed in 1788.

Thanks for sharing that! I knew nothing of this music scene.