Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have lived on the continent for more than 50,000 years, making them potentially the oldest population of humans living outside Africa. For anyone planning to visit Australia, why not explore this ancient culture further?
First, some definitions. Aboriginal Australians are recognised as “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 [or she] lives.”
Aboriginal Australians are split into two groups: those related to the inhabitants when Britain began colonising Australia in 1788 and the Torres Strait Islander peoples, residents of a group of islands off Queensland.
The 2016 census found there were nearly 800,000 Indigenous people living in Australia, with the largest populations living in the eastern states of New South Wales and Queensland. This compares to the estimated 750,000 to 1.25 million Aboriginals who were living in Australia when British settlers arrived.
A genetic study conducted in 2017 found that today’s Aboriginals are related to a common ancestor who was a member of a population that emerged in Australia around 50,000 years ago. One theory suggests that they emerged out of Africa around 70,000 years ago, migrating to Asia and then Northern Australia via boats.
At the time of European settlement, some 700 different Aboriginal languages and dialects were spoken, however this has since diminished to around 250. These live on through individual words and varieties of Aboriginal English.
Some examples of these languages spoken in Queensland can be found at the State Library of Queensland.
The long history of Australia’s Indigenous people is reflected in the many significant archaeological sites found nationwide. Aboriginal people have a deep connection with the land, which is central to their spiritual identity.
In Queensland, more than 43,000 site locations have been identified. These include stone artefact scatters, the remains of campsites (known as middens) and other evidence of human occupation.
Significant culture sites include Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s “red centre”. Uluru is sacred to Indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago.
Other significant sites include Botany Bay in Sydney, with evidence of shell middens having been occupied many times during the past 3,000 years. In Western Australia, archaeological work at Jinmium has uncovered stone artefacts and rock art of up to 60,000 years old.
Aboriginal art, culture and spirituality is connected to the “Dreamtime,” which tells of the beginning of life. These stories have been handed down through the generations, teaching the importance of nurturing the land, its significance and spiritual connection.
Discovering Indigenous culture in Queensland
Queensland offers a wealth of Indigenous experiences, including art, dance, traditional feasts and other cultural events.
On the Gold Coast, the Jellurgal Aboriginal Culture Centre at Burleigh Heads offers a range of experiences, from cultural tours to dance performances and ceremonies. The nearby “Spirits of the Red Sand” at Beenleigh Historical Village follows the epic story of an Aboriginal family in their life-changing journey from Dreamtime to their encounter with British settlers and beyond.
In Brisbane, the Queensland Art Gallery hosts an Indigenous Australian art collection with a focus on contemporary Aboriginal art, including paintings, sculpture, printmaking and more. It includes the most significant collection of contemporary Indigenous Australian fibre art from across the country.
The State Library of Queensland also hosts a significant documentary heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, including exhibitions, workshops and contemporary storytelling, while the Queensland Museum hosts cultural heritage items from Australia and across the Pacific.
A range of cultural events can also allow visitors to “connect to country” in a special way. Stretching from the Quandamooka Coast to Cairns, Cape York and Torres Strait, each event has a different story to tell.
These events include Quandamooka Festival, planned for June 2021 near Brisbane, which includes whale watching, cultural tours, art exhibitions and music. In Cairns, the Indigenous arts fair is one of Australia’s finest art fairs, celebrating all forms of Indigenous art from fashion to performances, painting and more.
Are you planning to visit Queensland or Australia in 2021? Ask Hello Kids for more information about how we can give you a special taste of Australia, with a unique Indigenous experience that touches your body and soul.