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LanguagesSeveral hundred Australian Aboriginal languages (many extinct or nearly so), Australian English, Australian Aboriginal English, Torres Strait Island languages, Torres Strait Creole, Kriol, Torres Strait EnglishReligionRelated ethnic groupsPapuans, Melanesians

Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia before British colonisation. They include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. The term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or the person's specific cultural group (their mob), is often preferred, though the terms First Nations of Australia, First Peoples of Australia and First Australians are also increasingly common.[a]

The time of arrival of the first peoples on the continent and nearby islands is a matter of debate among researchers. The earliest conclusively human remains found in Australia are those of Mungo Man LM3 and Mungo Lady, which have been dated to around 50,000 years BP.[2] Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP.[3][4] Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP.[5] Evidence of fires in South-West Victoria suggest "human presence in Australia 120,000 years ago", although more research is required.[6] Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years[7] and 125,000 years BP.[8]

The population of Aboriginal Australians at the time of permanent European settlement is contentious and has been estimated at between 318,000[9] and 1,000,000[10] with the distribution being similar to that of the current Australian population, the majority living in the south-east, centred along the Murray River.[11] A population collapse principally from disease f

Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia before British colonisation. They include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. The term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or the person's specific cultural group (their mob), is often preferred, though the terms First Nations of Australia, First Peoples of Australia and First Australians are also increasingly common.[a]

The time of arrival of the first peoples on the continent and nearby islands is a matter of debate among researchers. The earliest conclusively human remains found in Australia are those of Mungo Man LM3 and Mungo Lady, which have been dated to around 50,000 years BP.[2] Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP.[3][4] Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP.[5] Evidence of fires in South-West Victoria suggest "human presence in Australia 120,000 years ago", although more research is required.[6] Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years[7] and 125,000 years BP.[8]

The population of Aboriginal Australians at the time of permanent European settlement is contentious and has been estimated at between 318,000[9] and 1,000,000[10] with the distribution being similar to that of the current Australian population, the majority living in the south-east, centred along the Murray River.[11] A population collapse principally from disease followed European settlement,[12][13] beginning with a smallpox epidemic spreading three years after the arrival of Europeans. Massacres and frontier conflicts involving European settlers also contributed to depopulation.[14][15] The characterisation of this violence as genocide is debated.[16]

Although there are a number of commonalities among the various Aboriginal peoples, there is also a great diversity among different communities and societies in Australia, each with its own mixture of cultures, customs and languages. In present-day Australia these groups are further divided into local communities.Mungo Man LM3 and Mungo Lady, which have been dated to around 50,000 years BP.[2] Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP.[3][4] Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP.[5] Evidence of fires in South-West Victoria suggest "human presence in Australia 120,000 years ago", although more research is required.[6] Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years[7] and 125,000 years BP.[8]

The population of Aboriginal Australians at the time of permanent European settlement is contentious and has been estimated at between 318,000[9] and 1,000,000[10] with the distribution being similar to that of the current Australian population, the majority living in the south-east, centred along the Murray River.[11] A population collapse principally from disease followed European settlement,[12][13] beginning with a smallpox epidemic spreading three years after the arrival of Europeans. Massacres and frontier conflicts involving European settlers also contributed to depopulation.[14][15] The characterisation of this violence as genocide is debated.[16]

Although there are a number of commonalities among the various Aboriginal peoples, there is also a great diversity among different communities and societies in Australia, each with its own mixture of cultures, customs and languages. In present-day Australia these groups are further divided into local communities.[17] At the time of initial European settlement, over 250 Aboriginal languages were spoken; it is currently estimated that 120 to 145 of these remain in use, but only 13 of these are not considered endangered.[18][19] Aboriginal people today mostly 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).

The Australian Census includes counts of Aboriginal peoples, based on questions relating to individuals' self-identification as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or of both origins. As of 30 June 2016, the count was 798,365, or 3.3% of Australia's population.[1] Since 1995, the Australian Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag have been among the official flags of Australia.

There is a number of appropriate terms to use when referring to Aboriginal peoples of Australia, but there is general agreement that it is important to respect the "preferences of individuals, families, or communities, and allow them to define what they are most comfortable with" when referring to Aboriginal people.[20]

The word aboriginal has been in the English language since at least the 16th century to mean, "first or earliest known, indigenous". It comes from the Latin word aborigines, derived from ab (from) and origo (origin, beginning).[21] The term was used in Australia to describe its Aboriginal peoples as early as 1789. It became capitalised and was employed as the common name to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, although today the latter are not included in the term. The term "Aborigine" is deprecated, being regarded as outdated and inappropriate, having connotations of colonial Australia.[20][22][23]

While the term "Indigenous Australians" has grown since the 1980s,[24] many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples dislike it, feeling that it is too generic and removes their identity. However, the term has a practical application and can be used where appropriate.[20]

In recent years, "First Nations",[25] "First Peoples"[26] and "First Australians" have become more common. First Nations is considered the most acceptable by most people.[20]

Being as specific as possible, for example naming the language group (such as Arrernte), demonym relating to geographic area (such as Nunga), is considered best practice and most respectful. The abbreviation "ATSI" (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) is considered disrespectful.[22][23] (See also below under Regional groups section.)

Terms "black" and "blackfella"

The term "black" has been used to refer to Aboriginal Australians since European settlement.[27] While originally related to skin colour and often used pejoratively,[20] the term is used today to indicate Aboriginal heritage or culture in general and refers to any people of such heritage regardless of their level of skin pigmentation.[28] In the 1970s, many Aboriginal activists, such as Gary Foley, proudly embraced the term "black", and writer Kevin Gilbert's book from the time was entitled Living Black. The book included interviews with several members of the Aboriginal community, including Robert Jabanungga, reflecting on contemporary Aboriginal culture.[29] Use of this term varies depending on context and its use needs care as it may be deemed inappropriate.[20] The term "black" has sometimes caused confusion with African immigrants.[30]

A significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use the term "blackfella" and its associated forms to refer to Aboriginal Australians. Despite this, non-Aboriginal people are advised to avoid the term.[20][31][b]

Blak culture

Contemporary Aboriginal arts are sometimes referred to as a Blak arts movement, reflected in names such as BlakDance,[32] BlakLash Collective,[33] the title of Thelma Plum's song and album, Better in Blak, the Blak & Bright literary festival in Melbourne,[34] Blak Dot Gallery, Blak Markets and Blak Cabaret.[35]

The use of blak is part of a wider social movement (as seen in terms such as "Blaktivism" and "Blak History Month"[36]), after the term was coined in 1991 by photographer and multimedia artist Destiny Deacon, in an exhibition entitled Blak lik mi. Using a term possibly appropriated from American hip hop or rap, the intention behind it is that it "reclaim[s] historical, representational, symbolical, stereotypical and romanticised notions of Black or Blackness", and expresses taking back power and control within a society that does not give its Indigenous peoples much opportunity for self-determination as individuals and communities.[37] Deacon herself said that it was "taking on the 'colonisers' language and flipping it on its head", as an expression of authentic urban Aboriginal identity.[35]

Regional groups

Aboriginal groups

Men and boys playing a game of gorri, 1922

Aboriginal peoples of Australia are the various peoples indigenous to mainland Australia and associated islands, excluding the Torres Strait Islands.

The broad term Aboriginal Australians includes many regional groups that may be identified under names based on local language, locality, or what they are called by neighbouring groups. Some communities, cultures or groups may be inclusive of others and alter or overlap; significant changes have occurred in the generations after colonisation. The word "community" is often used to describe groups identifying by kinship, language or belonging to a particular place or "country". A community may draw on separate cultural values and individuals can conceivably belong to a number of communities within Australia; identification within them may be adopted or rejected. An individual community may identify itself by many names, each of which can have alternative English spellings.

Aboriginal farmers in Victoria, 1858

The naming of peoples is complex and multi-layered, but a few examples are Anangu in northern aboriginal has been in the English language since at least the 16th century to mean, "first or earliest known, indigenous". It comes from the Latin word aborigines, derived from ab (from) and origo (origin, beginning).[21] The term was used in Australia to describe its Aboriginal peoples as early as 1789. It became capitalised and was employed as the common name to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, although today the latter are not included in the term. The term "Aborigine" is deprecated, being regarded as outdated and inappropriate, having connotations of colonial Australia.[20][22][23]

While the term "Indigenous Australians" has grown since the 1980s,[24] many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples dislike it, feeling that it is too generic and removes their identity. However, the term has a practical application and can be used where appropriate.[20]

In recent years, "First Nations",[25] "First Peoples"[26] and "First Australians" have become more common. First Nations is considered the most acceptable by most people.[20]

Being as specific as possible, for example naming the language group (such as Arrernte), demonym relating to geographic area (such as Nunga), is considered best practice and most respectful. The abbreviation "ATSI" (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) is considered disrespectful.[22][23] (See also below under Regional groups section.)

The term "black" has been used to refer to Aboriginal Australians since European settlement.[27] While originally related to skin colour and often used pejoratively,[20] the term is used today to indicate Aboriginal heritage or culture in general and refers to any people of such heritage regardless of their level of skin pigmentation.[28] In the 1970s, many Aboriginal activists, such as Gary Foley, proudly embraced the term "black", and writer Kevin Gilbert's book from the time was entitled Living Black. The book included interviews with several members of the Aboriginal community, including Robert Jabanungga, reflecting on contemporary Aboriginal culture.[29] Use of this term varies depending on context and its use needs care as it may be deemed inappropriate.[20] The term "black" has sometimes caused confusion with African immigrants.[30]

A significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use the term "blackfella" and its associated forms to refer to Aboriginal Australians. Despite this, non-Aboriginal people are advised to avoid the term.[20][31][b]

blackfella" and its associated forms to refer to Aboriginal Australians. Despite this, non-Aboriginal people are advised to avoid the term.[20][31][b]

Contemporary Aboriginal arts are sometimes referred to as a Blak arts movement, reflected in names such as BlakDance,[32] BlakLash Collective,[33] the title of Thelma Plum's song and album, Better in Blak, the Blak & Bright literary festival in Melbourne,[34] Blak Dot Gallery, Blak Markets and Blak Cabaret.[35]

The use of blak is part of a wider social movement (as seen in terms such as "Blaktivism" and "Blak History Month"[36]), after the term was coined in 1991 by photographer and multimedia artist Destiny Deacon, in an

The use of blak is part of a wider social movement (as seen in terms such as "Blaktivism" and "Blak History Month"[36]), after the term was coined in 1991 by photographer and multimedia artist Destiny Deacon, in an exhibition entitled Blak lik mi. Using a term possibly appropriated from American hip hop or rap, the intention behind it is that it "reclaim[s] historical, representational, symbolical, stereotypical and romanticised notions of Black or Blackness", and expresses taking back power and control within a society that does not give its Indigenous peoples much opportunity for self-determination as individuals and communities.[37] Deacon herself said that it was "taking on the 'colonisers' language and flipping it on its head", as an expression of authentic urban Aboriginal identity.[35]

Aboriginal peoples of Australia are the various peoples indigenous to mainland Australia and associated islands, excluding the Torres Strait Islands.

The broad term Aboriginal Australians includes many regional groups that may be identified under names based on local language, locality, or what they are called by neighbouring groups. Some communities, cultures or groups may be inclusive of others and alter or overlap; significant changes have occurred in the generations after colonisation. The word "community" is often used to describe groups identifying by kinship, language or belonging to a particular place or "country". A community may draw on separate cultural values and individuals can conceivably belong to a number of communities within Australia; identification within them may be adopted or rejected. An individual community may identify itself by many names, each of which can have alternative English spellings.

Aboriginal farmers in Victoria, 1858

The naming of peoples is complex and multi-layered, but a few examples are Anangu in northern South Australia, and neighbouring parts of Western Australia and Northern Territory; kinship, language or belonging to a particular place or "country". A community may draw on separate cultural values and individuals can conceivably belong to a number of communities within Australia; identification within them may be adopted or rejected. An individual community may identify itself by many names, each of which can have alternative English spellings.

The naming of peoples is complex and multi-layered, but a few examples are Anangu in northern South Australia, and neighbouring parts of Western Australia and Northern Territory; Arrernte in central Australia; Koori (or Koorie) in New South Wales and Victoria (Aboriginal Victorians); Goorie (variant pronunciation and spelling of Koori) in South East Queensland and some parts of northern New South Wales; Murri used in parts of Queensland and northern New South Wales where specific collective names are not used; Tiwi people of the Tiwi Islands off NT, and Palawah in Tasmania. The largest Aboriginal communities – the Pitjantjatjara, the Arrernte, the Luritja and the Warlpiri – are all from Central Australia[citation needed]

Throughout the history of the continent, there have been many different Aboriginal groups, each with its own individual language, culture, and belief structure. At the time of British settlement, there were over 200 distinct languages.[38]

language, culture, and belief structure. At the time of British settlement, there were over 200 distinct languages.[38]

The Tasmanian Aboriginal population are thought to have first crossed into Tasmania approximately 40,000 years ago via a land bridge between the island and the rest of mainland Australia during the last glacial period.[39] Estimates of the population of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania, before European arrival, are in the range of 3,000 to 15,000 people although genetic studies have suggested significantly higher figures, which are supported by Indigenous oral traditions that indicate a reduction in population from diseases introduced by British and American sealers before settlement.[40][c] The original population was further reduced to around 300 between 1803 and 1833 due to disease,[41] warfare and other actions of British settlers.[42] Despite over 170 years of debate over who or what was responsible for this near-extinction, no consensus exists on its origins, process, or whether or not it was genocide. However, using the "...UN definition, sufficient evidence exists to designate the Tasmanian catastrophe genocide".[40] A woman named Trugernanner (often rendered as Truganini) who died in 1876, was, and still is, widely believed to be the last of the full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal people. However, in 1889 Parliament recognised Fanny Cochrane Smith (d:1905) as the last surviving full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal person.[d][e]

The 2016 census reported 23,572 Indigenous Australians in the state of Tasmania.[43]

Torres Strait Islanders

[43]

The Torres Strait Islander people possess a heritage and cultural history distinct from Aboriginal traditions. The eastern Torres Strait Islanders in particular are related to the Papuan peoples of New Guinea, and speak a Papuan language.[44] Accordingly, they are not generally included under the designation "Aboriginal Australians". This has been another factor in the promotion of the more inclusive term "Indigenous Australians". Six percent of Indigenous Australians identify themselves fully as Torres Strait Islanders. A further 4% of Indigenous Australians identify themselves as having both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal heritage.[45]

The Torres Strait Islands comprise over 100 islands[46] which were annexed by Queensland in 1879.[46] Many Indigenous organisations incorporate the phrase "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander" to highlight the distinctiveness and importance of Torres Strait Islanders in Australia's Indigenous population.

Eddie Mabo was from "Mer" or Murray Island in the Torres Strait, which the famous Mabo decision of 1992 involved.[46]

Other groupings

[64][65] Luminescence dating of sediments surrounding stone artefacts at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia, indicates human activity at 65,000 years BP.[66] Genetic studies appear to support an arrival date of 50–70,000 years ago.[67]

The earliest anatomically modern human remains found in Australia (and outside of Africa) are those of Mungo Man; they have been dated at 42,000 years old.[2][68] The initial comparison of the mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton known as Lake Mungo 3 (LM3) with that of ancient and modern Aboriginal peoples indicated that Mungo Man is not related to Australian Aboriginal peoples.[69] However, these findings have been met with a general lack of acceptance in scientific communities.[citation needed] The sequence has been criticised as there has been no independent testing, and it has been suggested that the results may be due to posthumous modification and thermal degradation of the DNA.[70][71][72][73] Although the contested results seem to indicate that Mungo Man may have been an extinct subspecies that diverged before the most recent common ancestor of contemporary humans,[69] the administrative body

The earliest anatomically modern human remains found in Australia (and outside of Africa) are those of Mungo Man; they have been dated at 42,000 years old.[2][68] The initial comparison of the mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton known as Lake Mungo 3 (LM3) with that of ancient and modern Aboriginal peoples indicated that Mungo Man is not related to Australian Aboriginal peoples.[69] However, these findings have been met with a general lack of acceptance in scientific communities.[citation needed] The sequence has been criticised as there has been no independent testing, and it has been suggested that the results may be due to posthumous modification and thermal degradation of the DNA.[70][71][72][73] Although the contested results seem to indicate that Mungo Man may have been an extinct subspecies that diverged before the most recent common ancestor of contemporary humans,[69] the administrative body for the Mungo National Park believes that present-day local Aboriginal peoples are descended from the Lake Mungo remains.[74] Independent DNA testing is unlikely as the Indigenous custodians are not expected to allow further invasive investigations.[75]

It is generally believed that Aboriginal people are the descendants of a single migration into the continent, a people that split from the first modern human populations to leave Africa 64,000 to 75,000 years ago,[76] although others support an earlier theory that there were three waves of migration,[77] most likely island hopping by boat during periods of low sea levels (see Prehistory of Australia). Recent work with mitochondrial DNA suggests a founder population of between 1,000 and 3,000 women to produce the genetic diversity observed, which suggests "that initial colonisation of the continent would have required deliberate organised sea travel, involving hundreds of people".[78] Aboriginal people seem to have lived a long time in the same environment as the now extinct Australian megafauna.[79]

Genetically, while Aboriginal Australians are most closely related to Melanesian and Papuan people, there is also another component that could indicate South Asian admixture or more recent European influence.[80][81] Research indicates a single founding Sahul group with subsequent isolation between regional populations which were relatively unaffected by later migrations from the Asian mainland, which may have introduced the dingo 4–5,000 years ago. The research also suggests a divergence from the Papuan people of New Guinea and the Mamanwa people of the Philippines about 32,000 years ago, with a rapid population expansion about 5,000 years ago.[81] A 2011 genetic study found evidence that the Aboriginal, Papuan and Mamanwa peoples carry some of the alleles associated with the Denisovan peoples of Asia, (not found amongst populations in mainland Asia) suggesting that modern and archaic humans interbred in Asia approximately 44,000 years ago, before Australia separated from New Guinea and the migration to Australia.[82][83] A 2012 paper reports that there is also evidence of a substantial genetic flow from India to northern Australia estimated at slightly over four thousand years ago, a time when changes in tool technology and food processing appear in the Australian archaeological record, suggesting that these may be related.[84]

Aboriginal Australian men have Haplogroup C-M347 in high frequencies with peak estimates ranging from 60.2%[85] to 68.7%.Haplogroup C-M347 in high frequencies with peak estimates ranging from 60.2%[85] to 68.7%.[86] In addition, the basal form K2* (K-M526) of the extremely ancient Haplogroup K2 – whose subclades Haplogroup R, haplogroup Q, haplogroup M and haplogroup S can be found in the majority of Europeans, Northern South Asians, Native Americans and the Indigenous peoples of Oceania – has only been found in living humans today amongst Aboriginal Australians. 27% of them may carry K2* and approximately 29% of Aboriginal Australian males belong to subclades of K2b1, a.k.a. M and S.[87]

Aboriginal Australians possess deep rooted clades of both mtDNA Haplogroup M and Haplogroup N.[88]

Although it is estimated that people migrated from the Indonesian archipelago and New Guinea to mainland Australia about 70,000 years ago,[89] as of 2020 evidence of human settlement has only been uncovered by archaeologists dating back to about 2500 years ago.[90][91]

Before European contact

Aboriginal people in some regions lived as foragers and hunter-gatherers, hunting and foraging for food from the land. Although Aboriginal society was generally mobile, or semi-nomadic, moving according to the changing food availability found across different areas as seasons changed, the mode of life and material cultures varied greatly from region to region, and there were permanent settlements[92] and agriculture[93] in some areas. The greatest population density was to be found in the southern and eastern regions of the continent, the River Murray valley in particular.[94] Canoes were made out of bark for use on the Murray.

The scar on this tree is where Aboriginal people have removed the bark to make a canoe, for use on the Murray River. It was identified near Mildura, Victoria and is now in the Mildura Visitor Centre.

There is some evidence that, before outside contact, some groups of Aboriginal Australians had a complex subsistence system with elements of agriculture, that was only recorded by the very first of European explorers. One early settler took notes on the life styles of the Wathaurung people whom he lived near in Victoria. He saw women harvesting Murnong tubers, a native yam that is now almost extinct. However, the area that they were harvesting from was already cleared of other plants, making it easier to harvest Murnong (also known as yam daisy) exclusively.[94]

Along the northern coast of Australia, parsnip yams were harvested by leaving the bottom part of the yam still stuck in the ground so that it would grow again in the same spot.[95] Similar to many other farmers in th

There is some evidence that, before outside contact, some groups of Aboriginal Australians had a complex subsistence system with elements of agriculture, that was only recorded by the very first of European explorers. One early settler took notes on the life styles of the Wathaurung people whom he lived near in Victoria. He saw women harvesting Murnong tubers, a native yam that is now almost extinct. However, the area that they were harvesting from was already cleared of other plants, making it easier to harvest Murnong (also known as yam daisy) exclusively.[94]

Along the northern coast of Australia, parsnip yams were harvested by leaving the bottom part of the yam still stuck in the ground so that it would grow again in the same spot.[95] Similar to many other farmers in the world, Aboriginal peoples used slash and burn techniques to enrich the nutrients of their soil. However, sheep and cattle later brought over by Europeans would ruin this soil by trampling on it.[95] To add on the complexity of Aboriginal farming techniques, natives deliberately exchanged seeds to begin growing plants where they did not naturally occur.[96] In fact there were so many examples of Aboriginal Australians managing farm land in a complex manner that Australian Anthropologist, Dr. Norman Tindale was able to draw an Aboriginal grain belt, detailing the

Along the northern coast of Australia, parsnip yams were harvested by leaving the bottom part of the yam still stuck in the ground so that it would grow again in the same spot.[95] Similar to many other farmers in the world, Aboriginal peoples used slash and burn techniques to enrich the nutrients of their soil. However, sheep and cattle later brought over by Europeans would ruin this soil by trampling on it.[95] To add on the complexity of Aboriginal farming techniques, natives deliberately exchanged seeds to begin growing plants where they did not naturally occur.[96] In fact there were so many examples of Aboriginal Australians managing farm land in a complex manner that Australian Anthropologist, Dr. Norman Tindale was able to draw an Aboriginal grain belt, detailing the specific areas where crops were once produced.[97]

In terms of aquaculture, explorer Thomas Mitchell noted large stone fish traps on the Darling River at Brewarrina. Each trap covers a pool, herding fish through a small entrance that would later be shut. Traps were created at different heights to accommodate different water levels during floods and droughts.[98]

Technology used by Indigenous Australian societies before European contact included weapons, tools, shelters, watercraft, and the message stick. Weapons included boomerangs, spears (sometimes thrown with a woomera) with stone or fishbone tips, clubs, and (less commonly) axes.[99] The Stone Age tools available included knives with ground edges, grinding devices, and eating containers. Fibrecraft was well-developed, and fibre nets, baskets, and bags were used for fishing, hunting, and carrying liquids. Trade networks spanned the continent, and transportation included canoes. Shelters varied regionally, and included wiltjas in the Atherton Tablelands, paperbark and stringybark sheets and raised platforms in Arnhem Land, whalebone huts in what is now South Australia, stone shelters in what is now western Victoria, and a multi-room pole and bark structure found in Corranderrk.[100] A bark tent or lean-to is known as a humpy, gunyah, or wurley. Clothing included the possum-skin cloak in the southeast and riji (pearl shells) in the northeast.

There is evidence that some Aboriginal populations in northern Australia regularly traded with Makassan fishermen from Indonesia before the arrival of Europeans.[101][102]

At the time of first European contact, it is generally estimated that the pre-1788 population was 314,000, while recent archaeological finds suggest that a population of 500,000 to 750,000 could have been sustained, with some ecologists estimating that a population of up to a million or even two million people was possible.[10][103][f] More recent work suggests that Aboriginal populations exceeded 1.2 million 500 years ago, but may have fallen somewhat with the introduction of disease pathogens from Eurasia in the last 500 years.[78] The population was split into 250 individual nations,[104] many of which were in alliance with one another, and within each nation there existed separate, often related clans, from as few as 5 or 6 to as many as 30 or 40. Each nation had its own language, and a few had several.[citation needed]

There is some evidence to suggest that the section of the Australian continent now occupied by Queensland was the single most densely populated area of pre-contact Australia.[105] There are also signs that the population density of Aboriginal Australia was comparatively higher in the north-eastern sections of New South Wales, and along the northern coast from the Gulf of Carpentaria and westward including certain sections of Northern Territory and Western Australia.[citation needed]

The Torres Strait peoples' fishing economy relied on boats, which they built themselves. There is also evidence of the construction of large, complex buildings on stilts and domed structures using bamboo, with thatched roofs, which catered for extended family members living together.[94]

British colonisation

Dates by area

British colonisation of Australia began with the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay, New South Wales, in 1788. Settlements were subsequently established in Tasmania (1803), Victoria (1803), Queensland (1824), Western Australia (1826), and the Colony of South Australia (1836).[106]

The first settlement in the Northern Territory was built after Captain Gordon Bremer took possession of the Tiwi Islands of Bathurst and Melville, claiming them for the colony of New South Wales, although that settlement failed after a few years,[107] along with a couple of later attempts; permanent settlement was only finally achieved at Darwin in 1869.

Australia was the exception to British imperial colonisation practices, in that no treaty was drawn up setting out terms of agreement between the settlers and native proprietors, as was the case in North America, and New Zealand.[106] Many of the men on the First Fleet had had military experience among Native American tribes in North America, and tended to attribute to the Aboriginal people alien and misleading systems or concepts like chieftainship and Northern Territory was built after Captain Gordon Bremer took possession of the Tiwi Islands of Bathurst and Melville, claiming them for the colony of New South Wales, although that settlement failed after a few years,[107] along with a couple of later attempts; permanent settlement was only finally achieved at Darwin in 1869.

Australia was the exception to British imperial colonisation practices, in that no treaty was drawn up setting out terms of agreement between the settlers and native proprietors, as was the case in North America, and New Zealand.[106] Many of the men on the First Fleet had had military experience among Native American tribes in North America, and tended to attribute to the Aboriginal people alien and misleading systems or concepts like chieftainship and tribe with which they had become acquainted in the northern hemisphere.[108]

British administrative control began in the Torres Strait Islands in 1862, with the appointment of John Jardine, police magistrate at Rockhampton, as Government Resident in the Torres Straits. He originally established a small settlement on Albany Island, but on 1 August 1864 he went to Somerset Island.[109] English missionaries arrived on Erub (Darnley Island) on 1 July 1871.[110] In 1872 the boundary of Queensland was extended to include Thursday Island and some other islands in Torres Strait within 60 miles (97 km) of the Queensland coast, and in 1879 Queensland annexed the other islands, which became part of the British colony of Queensland.[109]

One immediate consequence was a series of epidemics of European diseases such as measles, smallpox and tuberculosis. In the 19th century, smallpox was the principal cause of Aboriginal deaths, and vaccinations of the "native inhabitants" had begun in earnest by the 1840s.[13] This smallpox epidemic in 1789 is estimated to have killed up to 90% of the Darug people. The cause of the outbreak is disputed. Some scholars have attributed it to European settlers,[111][112] but it is also argued that Macassan fishermen from South Sulawesi and nearby islands may have introduced smallpox to Australia before the arrival of Europeans.[113] A third suggestion is that the outbreak was caused by contact with members of the First Fleet.[114] A fourth theory is that the epidemic was of chickenpox, not smallpox, carried by members of the First Fleet, and to which the Aboriginal people also had no immunity.[115][116][117][118]. Moreover, Aboriginal people were infected with sexually transmitted infections, especially syphilis and gonorrhea, which was detrimental to their survival. The intentional nature of spreading STIs is one of the reasons it is considered a genocidal act, as one cannot control who becomes infected with influenza but they can control who they infect with an STI.[119]

Another consequence of British colonisation was European seizure of land and water resources, with the decimation of kangaroo and other indigenous foodstuffs which continued throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as rural lands were converted for sheep and cattle grazing.[120] Settlers also participated in the rape and forcible prostitution of Aboriginal women.[121] Despite this a number of Europeans, including convicts, formed favourable impressions of Aboriginal life through living with Aboriginal Groups.[122]

In 1834 there occurred the first recorded use of Aboriginal trackers, who proved very adept at navigating their way through the Australian landscape and finding people.[123]

During the 1860s, Tasmanian Aboriginal skulls were particularly sought internationally for studies into craniofacial anthropometry. The skeleton of Truganini, a Tasmanian Aboriginal who died in 1876, was exhumed within two years of her death despite her pleas to the contrary by the Royal Society of Tasmania, and later placed on display. Campaigns continue to have Aboriginal body parts returned to Australia for burial; Truganini's body was returned in 1976 and cremated, and her ashes were scattered according to her wishes.[citation needed]

Place names sometimes reveal discrimination, such as Mount Jim Crow in Rockhampton, Queensland (now Mount Baga), as well as racist policies, like Brisbane's Boundary Streets which used to indicate boundaries where Aboriginal people were not allowed to cross during certain times of the day.[124] There is ongoing discussion about changing many of these names.[125][126]

Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had their lives under the jurisdiction of various state-based protection laws. These Acts of Parliament appointed Protectors of Aborigines and Aboriginal Protection Boards, whose role was to ensure the safety of Indigenous Australians as well as controlling their lives in matters of employment and marriage. Wages were controlled by the Protectors, and Indigenous Australians received less income than their non-Indigenous counterparts in employment.[127][128]

During this time, many Aboriginal people were victims of slavery by colonists alongside Pacific Islander peoples who were kidnapped from their homes, in a practice known as blackbirding. Between 1860 and 1970, under the guise of protectionist policies, people, including children as young as 12, were forced to work on properties where they worked under horrific conditions and most did not receive any wages.[129] In the Pacific Islander peoples who were kidnapped from their homes, in a practice known as blackbirding. Between 1860 and 1970, under the guise of protectionist policies, people, including children as young as 12, were forced to work on properties where they worked under horrific conditions and most did not receive any wages.[129] In the pearling industry, Aboriginal peoples were bought for about 5 pounds, with pregnant Aboriginal women "prized because their lungs were believed to have greater air capacity"[130] Aboriginal prisoners in the Aboriginal-only prison on Rottnest Island, many of whom were there on trumped up charges, were chained up and forced to work.[131] In 1971, 373 Aboriginal men were found buried in unmarked graves on the island.[132] Up until June 2018, the former prison was being used as holiday accommodation.[133]

From 1810, Aboriginal peoples were moved onto mission stations, run by churches and the state.[134] While they provided food and shelter, their purpose was to "civilise" Aboriginal communities by teaching western values. After this period of protectionist policies that aimed to segregate and control Aboriginal populations, in 1937 the Commonwealth government agreed to move towards assimilation policies. These policies aimed to integrate Aboriginal persons who were "not of full blood" into the white community in an effort to eliminate the "Aboriginal problem". As part of this, there was an increase in the number of children forcibly removed from their homes and placed with white people, either in institutions or foster homes.[135]

As part of the colonisation process, there were many small-scale conflicts and clashes between colonists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the continent and islands. In Queensland, the killing of Aboriginal peoples was largely perpetrated by civilian "hunting" parties and the Native Police, armed groups of Aboriginal men who were recruited at gunpoint and led by colonialist to eliminate Aboriginal resistance.[136] There is evidence that massacres of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which began with arrival of British colonists, continued until the 1930s. Researchers at the University of Newcastle under Lyndall Ryan have been mapping the massacres.[137] as of 2020 they have mapped almost 500 places where massacres happened, with 12,361 Aboriginal people killed and 204 Colonists killed,[138] numbering at least 311 massacres over a period of about 140 years. After losing a significant number of their social unit in one blow, the survivors were left very vulnerable – with reduced ability to gather food, reproduce, or fulfill their ceremonial obligations, as well as defend themselves against further attack.[139]

Estimating the total number of deaths during the frontier wars is difficult due to lack of records and the fact that many massacres of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were kept secret.[137] It is often quoted that 20,000 Aboriginal Australians and 2000 colonists died in the frontier wars;[140] however, recent research indicates at least 40,000 Aboriginal d

Estimating the total number of deaths during the frontier wars is difficult due to lack of records and the fact that many massacres of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were kept secret.[137] It is often quoted that 20,000 Aboriginal Australians and 2000 colonists died in the frontier wars;[140] however, recent research indicates at least 40,000 Aboriginal dead and 2,000 to 2,500 settlers dead.[141] Other research indicates a minimum of 65,000 Aboriginal peoples may have been killed in Queensland alone.[142] There have been arguments over whether deaths of Aboriginal peoples, particularly in Tasmania, as well as the forcible removal of children from Aboriginal communities, constitutes genocide.[143][144][145] Many place names in Australia mark places of frontier massacres, for example Murdering Gully in Newcastle.[146]

There has always been Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resistance, from the arrival of colonists through to now.[147]

  • In 1938, over 100 Aboriginal peoples protested one of the first Australia Day celebrations by gathering for an "Aborigines Conference" in Sydney and marking the day as the "Day of Protest and Mourning";The term Stolen Generations refers to those children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were forcibly removed[152] from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions for the purpose of eradicating Aboriginal culture, under acts of their respective parliaments.[h][153] The forcible removal of these children occurred in the period between approximately 1871[154] and 1969,[155][156] although, in some places, children were still being taken in the 1970s.[i]

    Early 20th century

    By 1900, the recorded Indigenous population of Australia had declined to approximately 93,000.[9] However, this was only a partial count as both Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders were poorly covered, with desert Aboriginal peoples not counted at all until the 1930s.[citation needed] During the first half of the twentieth century, many Indigenous Australians worked as stockmen on sheep stations and cattle stations for extremely low wages. The Indigenous population continued to decline, reaching a low of 74,000 in 1933 before numbers began to recover. By 1995, population numbers had reached pre-colonisation levels, and in 2010 there were around 563,000 Indigenous Australians.[103]

    Although, as British subjects, all Indigenous Australians were nominally entitled to vote, generally only those who merged into mainstream society did so. Only Western Australia and Queensland specifically excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the electoral rolls. Despite the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902, which excluded "Aboriginal natives of Australia, Asia, Africa and Pacific Islands except New Zealand" from voting unless they were on the roll before 1901, South Australia insisted that all voters enfranchised within its borders would remain eligible to vote in the Commonwealth, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be added to their rolls, albeit haphazardly.[citation needed]

    Aboriginal women, Northern Territory, 1928. Photo taken by Herbert Basedow.

    Despite efforts to bar their enlistment, over 1,000 Indigenous Australians fought for Australia in the First World War.[157]

    1934 saw the first appeal to the High Court by an Aboriginal Australian, and it succeeded. Dhakiyarr was found to have been wrongly convicted of the murder of a white policeman, for which he had been sentenced to death; the case focused national attention on Aboriginal rights issues. Dhakiyarr disappeared upon release.[158][159] In 1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet was marked as a Day of Mourning and Protest at an Aboriginal meeting in Sydney, and has since become marked around Australia as "Invasion Day" or "Survival Day" by Aboriginal protesters and their supporters.[160]

    Hundreds of Indigenous Australians served in the Australian armed forces during World War Two – including with the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion and The Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, which were established to guard Australia's North against the threat of Japanese invasion.[161] However, most were denied pension rights and military allotments, except in Victoria, where each case was judged individually, without a blanket denial of rights accruing from their service.[j]

    Late 20th century

    Picture of Albert Namatjira at the Albert Namatjira Gallery, Alice Springs. Aboriginal art and artists became increasingly prominent in Australian cultural life during the second half of the 20th century.
    Australian tennis player Evonne Goolagong

    The 1960s was a pivotal decade in the assertion of Aboriginal rights and a time of growing collaboration between Aboriginal activists and white Australian activists.[162] In 1962, Commonwealth legislation specifically gave Aboriginal p

    By 1900, the recorded Indigenous population of Australia had declined to approximately 93,000.[9] However, this was only a partial count as both Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders were poorly covered, with desert Aboriginal peoples not counted at all until the 1930s.[citation needed] During the first half of the twentieth century, many Indigenous Australians worked as stockmen on sheep stations and cattle stations for extremely low wages. The Indigenous population continued to decline, reaching a low of 74,000 in 1933 before numbers began to recover. By 1995, population numbers had reached pre-colonisation levels, and in 2010 there were around 563,000 Indigenous Australians.[103]

    Although, as British subjects, all Indigenous Australians were nominally entitled to vote, generally only those who merged into mainstream society did so. Only Western Australia and Queensland specifically excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the electoral ro

    Although, as British subjects, all Indigenous Australians were nominally entitled to vote, generally only those who merged into mainstream society did so. Only Western Australia and Queensland specifically excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the electoral rolls. Despite the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902, which excluded "Aboriginal natives of Australia, Asia, Africa and Pacific Islands except New Zealand" from voting unless they were on the roll before 1901, South Australia insisted that all voters enfranchised within its borders would remain eligible to vote in the Commonwealth, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be added to their rolls, albeit haphazardly.[citation needed]

    Despite efforts to bar their enlistment, over 1,000 Indigenous Australians fought for Australia in the First World War.[157]

    1934 saw the first appeal to the High Court by an Aboriginal Australian, and it succeeded. Dhakiyarr was found to have been wrongly convicted of the murder of a white policeman, for which he had been sentenced to death; the case focused national attention on Aboriginal rights issues. Dhakiyarr disappeared upon release.[158][159] In 1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet was marked as a Day of Mourning and Protest at an Abo

    1934 saw the first appeal to the High Court by an Aboriginal Australian, and it succeeded. Dhakiyarr was found to have been wrongly convicted of the murder of a white policeman, for which he had been sentenced to death; the case focused national attention on Aboriginal rights issues. Dhakiyarr disappeared upon release.[158][159] In 1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet was marked as a Day of Mourning and Protest at an Aboriginal meeting in Sydney, and has since become marked around Australia as "Invasion Day" or "Survival Day" by Aboriginal protesters and their supporters.[160]

    Hundreds of Indigenous Australians served in the Australian armed forces during World War Two – including with the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion and The Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, which were established to guard Australia's North against the threat of Japanese invasion.[161] However, most were denied pension rights and military allotments, except in Victoria, where each case was judged individually, without a blanket denial of rights accruing from their service.[j]

    The 1960s was a pivotal decade in the assertion of Aboriginal rights and a time of growing collaboration between Aboriginal activists and white Australian activists.[162] In 1962, Commonwealth legislation specifically gave Aboriginal people the right to vote in Commonwealth elections.[163] A group of University of Sydney students organised a bus tour of western and coastal New South Wales towns in 1965 to raise awareness of the state of Aboriginal health and living conditions. This Freedom Ride also aimed to highlight the social discrimination faced by Aboriginal people and encourage Aboriginal people themselves to resist discrimination.[164]

    As mentioned above, Indigenous Australians received lower wages than their non-Indigenous counterparts in employment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland in particular had their income quarantined by the Protector and were allowed a minimal amount of their income.[127][128] In 1966, Vincent Lingiari led the famous Wave Hill walk-off (Gurindji strike) of Indigenous employees of Wave Hill Station in protest against poor pay and conditions[165] (later the subject of the Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody song "From Little Things Big Things Grow").[166] Since 1999, the Queensland Government, under pressure from the Queensland Council of Unions, has established a number of schemes to give any earned income not received at the time back to Indigenous Australians.[127][128]

    The landmark 1967 referendum called by Prime Minister Harold Holt allowed the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to Aboriginal people by modifying section 51(xxvi) of the Constitution, and for Aboriginal people to be included when the country does a count to determine electoral representation by repealing section 127. The referendum passed with 90.77% voter support.[167]

    In the controversial 1971 Gove land rights case, Justice Blackburn ruled that Australia had been terra nullius before British settlement, and

    As mentioned above, Indigenous Australians received lower wages than their non-Indigenous counterparts in employment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland in particular had their income quarantined by the Protector and were allowed a minimal amount of their income.[127][128] In 1966, Vincent Lingiari led the famous Wave Hill walk-off (Gurindji strike) of Indigenous employees of Wave Hill Station in protest against poor pay and conditions[165] (later the subject of the Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody song "From Little Things Big Things Grow").[166] Since 1999, the Queensland Government, under pressure from the Queensland Council of Unions, has established a number of schemes to give any earned income not received at the time back to Indigenous Australians.[127][128]

    The landmark 1967 referendum called by Prime Minister Harold Holt allowed the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to Aboriginal people by modifying section 51(xxvi) of the Constitution, and for Aboriginal people to be included when the country does a count to determine electoral representation by repealing section 127. The referendum passed with 90.77% voter support.[167]

    In the controversial 1971 Gove land rights case, Justice Blackburn ruled that Australia had been terra nullius before British settlement, and that no concept of native title existed in Australian law. Following the 1973 Woodward commission, in 1975 the federal government under Gough Whitlam drafted the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill. This was enacted the following year under the Fraser government as the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, which recognised Aboriginal Australians' system of land rights in the Northern Territory, and established the basis upon which Aboriginal people in the NT could claim rights to land based on traditional occupation.[168][169][170][171]

    In 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluru (Ayers Rock) to the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people.[172] In 1992, the High Court of Australia reversed Justice Blackburn's ruling and handed down its decision in the Mabo Case, declaring the previous legal concept of terra nullius to be invalid and confirming the existence of native title in Australia.[173][174]

    Indigenous Australians began to serve in political office from the 1970s. In 1971, Neville Bonner joined the Australian Senate as a Senator for Queensland for the Liberal Party, becoming the first Indigenous Australian in the Federal Parliament. A year later, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra. In 1976, Sir Douglas Nicholls was appointed as the 28th Governor of South Australia, the first Aboriginal person appointed to vice-regal office.[175] In the general election of 2010, Ken Wyatt of the Liberal Party became the first Indigenous Australian elected to the Australian House of Representatives. In the general election of 2016, Linda Burney of the Australian Labor Party became the second Indigenous Australian, and the first Indigenous Australian woman, elected to the Australian House of Representatives.[176] She was immediately appointed Shadow Minister for Human Services.[177]

    In sport Evonne Goolagong Cawley became the world number-one ranked tennis player in 1971 and won 14 Grand Slam titles during her career. In 1973 Arthur Beetson became the first Indigenous Australian to captain his country in any sport when he first led the Australian National Rugby League team, the Kangaroos.[178] In 1982, Mark Ella became Captain of the Australian National Rugby Union Team, the Wallabies.[179] In 2000, Aboriginal sprinter Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and went on to win the 400 metres at the Games. In 2019, tennis player Ashleigh Barty was ranked world number one.[180]

    In 1984, a group of Pintupi people who were living a traditional hunter-gatherer desert-dwelling life were tracked down in the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and brought in to a settlement. They are believed to have been the last uncontacted tribe in Australia.[181][182]

    During this period, the federal government enacted a number of significant, but controversial, policy initiatives in relation to Indigenous Australians. A representative body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), was set up in 1990.[183]

    Reconciliation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians became a significant issue in Australian politics in the late 20th century. In 1991, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was established by the federal government to facilitate reconciliation. In 1998, a Constitutional Convention which selected a Republican model for a referendum included just six Indigenous participants, leading Monarchist delegate Neville Bonner to end his contribution to the convention with his Jagera tribal "Sorry Chant" in sadness at the low number of Indigenous representatives.[184]

    An inquiry into the Stolen Generations was launched in 1995 by the Keating government, and the final report delivered in 1997 – the Bringing Them Home report – estimated that around 10% to 33% of all Aboriginal children had been separated from their families for the duration of the policies.[185] The succeeding Howard government largely ignored the recommendations provided by the report, one of which was a formal apology to Aboriginal Australians for the Stolen Generati

    An inquiry into the Stolen Generations was launched in 1995 by the Keating government, and the final report delivered in 1997 – the Bringing Them Home report – estimated that around 10% to 33% of all Aboriginal children had been separated from their families for the duration of the policies.[185] The succeeding Howard government largely ignored the recommendations provided by the report, one of which was a formal apology to Aboriginal Australians for the Stolen Generations.[185]

    The republican model, as well as a proposal for a new Constitutional preamble which would have included the "honouring" of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, was put to referendum but did not succeed.[184] In 1999, the Australian Parliament passed a Motion of Reconciliation drafted by Prime Minister John Howard in consultation with Aboriginal Senator Aden Ridgeway naming mistreatment of Indigenous Australians as the most "blemished chapter in our national history", although Howard refused to offer any formal apology.[186]

    On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a formal apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples, on behalf of the federal government of Australia, for the suffering caused by the Stolen Generations.[187]

    In 2001, the Federal Government dedicated Reconciliation Place in Canberra. On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reversed Howard's decision and issued a public apology to members of the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian Government.[188]

    ATSIC was abolished by the Australian Government in 2004 amidst allegations of corruption.[183]

    [183]

    The Northern Territory National Emergency Response (also known as the Intervention) was launched in 2007 by the government of Prime Minister John Howard, in response to the Little Children are Sacred report into allegations of child abuse among Aboriginal communities in the NT. The government banned alcohol in prescribed communities in the Territory; quarantined a percentage of welfare payments for essential goods purchasing; dispatched additional police and medical personnel to the region; and suspended the permit system for access to Aboriginal communities.[189] In addition to these measures, the army were released into communities[190] and there were increased police powers, which were later further increased with the so-called "paperless arrests" legislation.[191]

    In 2010, United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya found the Emergency Response to be racially discriminatory, and said that aspects of it represented a limitation on "individual autonomy".[192][193] Thes

    In 2010, United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya found the Emergency Response to be racially discriminatory, and said that aspects of it represented a limitation on "individual autonomy".[192][193] These findings were criticised by the government's Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, the Opposition and Indigenous leaders like Warren Mundine and Bess Price.[194][195]

    In 2011, the Australian government enacted legislation to implement the Stronger Futures policy, which is intended to address key issues that exist within Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory such as unemployment, school attendance and enrolment, alcohol abuse, community safety and child protection, food security and housing and land reforms. The policy has been criticised by organisations such as Amnesty International and other groups, including on the basis that it maintains "racially-discriminatory" elements of the Emergency Response Act and continues control by the federal government over "Aboriginal people and their lands".[196]

    In 2010, the federal government appointed a panel comprising Indigenous leaders, other legal experts and some members of parliament (including Ken Wyatt) to provide advice on how best to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the federal Constitution. The panel's recommendations, reported to the federal government in January 2012,[188] included deletion of provisions of the Constitution referencing race (Section 25 and Section 51(xxvi)), and new provisions on meaningful recognition and further protection from discrimination.[k] Subsequently, a proposed referendum on Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians was ultimately abandoned in 2013.

    The Uluru Statement from the Heart[197] was released 26 May 2017 by delegates to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Isl

    The Uluru Statement from the Heart[197] was released 26 May 2017 by delegates to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Referendum Convention, held near Uluru in Central Australia. The statement calls for a "First Nations Voice" in the Australian Constitution and a "Makarrata Commission" to supervise a process of "agreement-making" and "truth-telling" between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.[198] The statement references the 1967 referendum which brought about changes to the Constitution to include Indigenous Australians.

    It has been variously estimated that before the arrival of British settlers, the population of Indigenous (probably Aboriginal only) Australians was approximately 318,000–1,000,000[10] with the distribution being similar to that of the current Australian population, the majority living in the south-east, centred along the Murray River.[11]

    Definition

    Over time Australia has used various means to determine membership of ethnic groups such as lineage, blood quantum, birth and self-determination. From 1869[clarification needed] until well into the 1970s, children under 12 years of age with 25% or less Aboriginal blood were considered "white" and were often removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments in order that they would have "a reasonable chance of absorption into the white community to which they rightly belong".[199] Grey areas in determination of ethnicity led to people of mixed ancestry being caught in the middle of divisive policies which often led to absurd situations:[200]

    In 1935, an Australian of part Indigenous descent left his home on a reserve to visit a nearby hotel where he was ejected for being Aboriginal. He returned home but was refused entry to the reserve because he was not Aboriginal. He attempted to remove his children from the reserve but was told he could not because they were Aboriginal. He then walked to the next town where he was arrested for being an Aboriginal vagrant and sent to the reserve there. During World War II he tried to enlist but was rejected because he was an Aborigine so he moved to another state where he enlisted as a non-Aborigine. After the end of the war he applied for a passport but was rejected as he was an Aborigine, he obtained an exemption under the Aborigines Protection Act but was now told he could no longer visit his relatives as he was not an Aborigine. He was later told he could not join the Returned Servicemens Club because he was an Aborigine.[200]

    In 1983 the High Court of Australia (in the Commonwealth v Tasmania or "Tasmanian dam(s) case")[201] defined an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander 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". The ruling was a three-part definition comprising descent, self-identification and community identification. The first part – descent – was genetic descent and unambiguous, but led to cases where a lack of records to prove ancestry excluded some. Self- and community identification were more problematic as they meant that an Indigenous person separated from her or his community due to a family dispute could no longer identify as Aboriginal.[202][203]

    As a result

    As a result, there arose court cases throughout the 1990s where excluded people demanded that their Aboriginality be recognised. As a result, lower courts refined the High Court test when subsequently applying it. In 1995, Justice Drummond in the Federal Court held in Gibbs v Capewell "...either genuine self-identification as Aboriginal alone or Aboriginal communal recognition as such by itself may suffice, according to the circumstances." This contributed to an increase of 31% in the number of people identifying as Indigenous Australians in the 1996 census when compared to the 1991 census.[204] In 1998 Justice Merkel held in Shaw v Wolf that Aboriginal descent is "technical" rather than "real" – thereby eliminating a genetic requirement.[203] This decision established that anyone can classify him or herself legally as an Aboriginal, provided he or she is accepted as such by his or her community.[202]

    Indigenous Australians have been counted in every census albeit only approximately and using inconsistent definitions.[205][206] Section 127 of the Constitution, which was repealed in 1967, had excluded "aboriginal natives" from being counted in the overall population statistics for each state and territory and nationally with the Attorney-General[who?] providing a legal advice that a person was a 'aboriginal native' if they were a 'full-blood aboriginal'.[207][208] As a consequence of section 127, Indigenous Australians in remote areas uninhabited by non-Indigenous Australians were not counted prior to 1967 in censuses and sometimes estimated.[208]

    Post 1967, Torres Strait Islanders were considered a separate Indigenous people.[209] Prior to 1947, Torres Strait Islanders were considered to be Aboriginal in censuses.[209] In the 1947 census, Torres Strait Islanders were considered to be Polynesian and in the 1954 and 1961 censuses were considered to be Pacific Islanders.[209] In the 1966 census, Torres Strait Islanders were considered to be Aboriginal.[209]

    A "Commonwealth working definition" for Indigenous Australians was developed from 1968 and endorsed by Cabinet in 1978 which contains elements of descent, self-identification and community recognition in contrast to the earlier preponderance of Aboriginal blood definition.[210][211]

    As there is no formal procedure for any community to record acceptance, the primary method of determining Indigenous population is from self-identification on census forms. The Australian Census includes counts based on questions relating to individuals' self-identification as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or of both origins.[1] Owing to various difficulties which lead to under-counting, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) follows a set method to estimate total numbers.[212]

    Distribution and growth

    The 2006 Australian census showed growth in the Indigenous population (recorded as 517,000) at twice the rate of overall population growth since 1996, when the Indigenous population stood at 283,000.[citation needed] In the 2011 census, there was a 20% rise in people who identify as Aboriginal.[213] In the 2016 census, there was another 18.4% rise on the 2011 figure. 590,056 respondents identified themselves as Aboriginal, 32,345 Torres Strait Islander, and a further 26,767 both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.[43]

    Growth was mainly in major cities and along the eastern coast of Australia. The ABS published a report exploring the reasons for these findings, with some of the factors behind the increase being higher fertility rates of Indigenous women; people entering the population through migration; variation in census coverage and response rates; and people changing how they self-identify between census years.[214] Another factor might be the children of mixed marriages: the proportion of Aboriginal adults married (de facto or de jure) to non-Aboriginal spouses increased to 78.2% in the 2016 census,[215] (up from 74% in 2011,[216] 64% in 1996, 51% in 1991 and 46% in 1986); it was reported in 2002 that up to 88% of the offspring of mixed marriages subsequently self-identify as Indigenous Australians.[204]

    In the 2016, over 33% of the Indigenous population lived in major cities, compared with about 75% of the non-Indigenous population, with a further 24% in "inner regional" areas (compared with 18%), 20% in "outer regional" (8%), while nearly 18% lived in "remote" or "very remote" areas (2%).[217] (Ten years earlier, 31% were living in major cities and 24% in remote areas.[218])

    Languages

    Aboriginal languages

    According to the 2005 National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS), at the time the Australian continent was colonised, there were around 250 different Indigenous languages, with the larger language groups each having up to 100 related dialects.[219] Some of these languages were only ever spoken by perhaps 50 to 100 people. Indigenous languages are divided into language groups with from ten to twenty-four language families identified.[18] It is currently estimated that up to 145 Indigenous languages remain in use, of which fewer than 20 are considered to be strong in the sense that they are still spoken by all age groups.[18][220] All but 13 Indigenous languages are considered to be endangered.[209] Prior to 1947, Torres Strait Islanders were considered to be Aboriginal in censuses.[209] In the 1947 census, Torres Strait Islanders were considered to be Polynesian and in the 1954 and 1961 censuses were considered to be Pacific Islanders.[209] In the 1966 census, Torres Strait Islanders were considered to be Aboriginal.[209]

    A "Commonwealth working definition" for Indigenous Australians was developed from 1968 and endorsed by Cabinet in 1978 which contains elements of descent, self-identification and community recognition in contrast to the earlier preponderance of Aboriginal blood definition.[210][211]

    As there is no formal procedure for any community to record acceptance, the primary method of determining Indigenous population is from self-identification on census forms. The Australian Census includes counts based on questions relating to individuals' self-identification as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or of both origins.[1] Owing to various difficulties which lead to under-counting, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) follows a set method to estimate total numbers.[212]

    The 2006 Australian census showed growth in the Indigenous population (recorded as 517,000) at twice the rate of overall population growth since 1996, when the Indigenous population stood at 283,000.[citation needed] In the 2011 census, there was a 20% rise in people who identify as Aboriginal.[213] In the 2016 census, there was another 18.4% rise on the 2011 figure. 590,056 respondents identified themselves as Aboriginal, 32,345 Torres Strait Islander, and a further 26,767 both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.[43]

    Growth was mainly in major cities and along the eastern coast of Australia. The ABS published a report exploring the reasons for these findings, with some of the factors behind the increase being higher fertility rates of Indigenous women; people entering the population through migration; variation in census coverage and response rates; and people changing how they self-identify between census years.[214] Another factor might be the children of mixed marriages: the proportion of Aboriginal adults married (de facto or Growth was mainly in major cities and along the eastern coast of Australia. The ABS published a report exploring the reasons for these findings, with some of the factors behind the increase being higher fertility rates of Indigenous women; people entering the population through migration; variation in census coverage and response rates; and people changing how they self-identify between census years.[214] Another factor might be the children of mixed marriages: the proportion of Aboriginal adults married (de facto or de jure) to non-Aboriginal spouses increased to 78.2% in the 2016 census,[215] (up from 74% in 2011,[216] 64% in 1996, 51% in 1991 and 46% in 1986); it was reported in 2002 that up to 88% of the offspring of mixed marriages subsequently self-identify as Indigenous Australians.[204]

    In the 2016, over 33% of the Indigenous population lived in major cities, compared with about 75% of the non-Indigenous population, with a further 24% in "inner regional" areas (compared with 18%), 20% in "outer regional" (8%), while nearly 18% lived in "remote" or "very remote" areas (2%).[217] (Ten years earlier, 31% were living in major cities and 24% in remote areas.[218])

    According to the 2005 National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS), at the time the Australian continent was colonised, there were around 250 different Indigenous languages, with the larger language groups each having up to 100 related dialects.[219] Some of these languages were only ever spoken by perhaps 50 to 100 people. Indigenous languages are divided into language groups with from ten to twenty-four language families identified.[18] It is currently estimated that up to 145 Indigenous languages remain in use, of which fewer than 20 are considered to be strong in the sense that they are still spoken by all age groups.[18][220] All but 13 Indigenous languages are considered to be endangered.[19] Several extinct Indigenous languages are being reconstructed. For example, the last fluent speaker of the Ngarrindjeri language died in the late 1960s; using recordings and written records as a guide, a Ngarrindjeri dictionary was published in 2009,[221] and the Ngarrindjeri language is today being spoken in complete sentences.[18]

    Linguists classify many of the mainland Australian languages into one large group, the Pama–Nyungan languages. The rest are sometimes lumped under the term "non-Pama–Nyungan". The Pama–Nyungan languages comprise the majority, covering most of Australia, and are generally thought to be a family of related languages. In the north, stretching from the Western Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria, are found a number of non-Pama–Nyungan groups of languages which have not been shown to be related to the Pama–Nyungan family nor to each other.[222] While it has sometimes proven difficult to work out familial relationships within the Pama–Nyungan language family, many Australian linguists feel there has been substantial

    Linguists classify many of the mainland Australian languages into one large group, the Pama–Nyungan languages. The rest are sometimes lumped under the term "non-Pama–Nyungan". The Pama–Nyungan languages comprise the majority, covering most of Australia, and are generally thought to be a family of related languages. In the north, stretching from the Western Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria, are found a number of non-Pama–Nyungan groups of languages which have not been shown to be related to the Pama–Nyungan family nor to each other.[222] While it has sometimes proven difficult to work out familial relationships within the Pama–Nyungan language family, many Australian linguists feel there has been substantial success.[223] Against this, some linguists, such as R. M. W. Dixon, suggest that the Pama–Nyungan group – and indeed the entire Australian linguistic area – is rather a sprachbund, or group of languages having very long and intimate contact, rather than a genetic language family.[224]

    It has been suggested that, given their long presence in Australia, Aboriginal languages form one specific sub-grouping. The position of Tasmanian languages is unknown, and it is also unknown whether they comprised one or more than one specific language family.[citation needed]

    Cross-cultural miscommunication can sometimes occur between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. According to Michael Walsh and Ghil'ad Zuckermann, Western conversational interaction is typically "dyadic", between two particular people, where eye contact is important and the speaker controls the interaction; and "contained" in a relatively short, defined time frame. However, traditional Aboriginal conversational interaction is "communal", broadcast to many people, eye contact is not important, the listener controls the interaction; and "continuous", spread over a longer, indefinite time frame.[225][226]

    Torres Strait Island languagesThere are three languages spoken in the Torres Strait Islands, two indigenous languages and an English-based creole. The indigenous language spoken mainly in the western and central islands is Kalaw Lagaw Ya, a language related to the Pama–Nyungan languages of the Australian mainland. The other indigenous language spoken mainly in the eastern islands is Meriam Mir: a member of the Trans-Fly languages spoken on the nearby south coast of New Guinea and the only Papuan language spoken on Australian territory. Both languages are agglutinative; however Kalaw Lagaw Ya appears to be undergoing a transition into a declensional language while Meriam Mìr is more clearly agglutinative. Yumplatok, or Torres Strait Creole, the third language, is a non-typical Pacific English Creole and is the main language of communication on the islands.[citation needed]

    Belief systems

    the Dreaming" or "the Dreamtime" stretches back into the distant past when the creator ancestors known as the First Peoples travelled across the land, and naming as they went. Indigenous Australia's oral tradition and religious values are based upon reverence for the land and a belief in this Dreamtime.[227] The Dreaming is at once both the ancient time of creation and the present-day reality of Dreaming. Different language and cultural groups each had their own belief structures; these cultures overlapped to a greater or lesser extent, and evolved over time. Major ancestral spirits include the Rainbow Serpent, Baiame, Dirawong and Bunjil.[citation needed] Knowledge contained in the Dreaming has been passed down through different stories, songlines, dances and ceremonies, and even today provides a framework for ongoing relationships, kinship responsibilities and looking after country.[228]

    Traditional healers (known as Ngangkari in the Western desert areas of Central Australia) were highly respected men and women who not only acted as healers or doctors, but were generally also custodians of important Dreaming stories.[229]

    Torres Strait Islander

    Torres Strait Islander people have their own traditional belief systems. Stories of the Tagai represent Torres Strait Islanders as sea people, with a connection to the stars, as well as a system of order in which everything has its place in the world.[228][230] Some Torres Strait Islander people share beliefs similar to the Aboriginal peoples' Dreaming and "Everywhen" concepts, passed down in oral history.[231]

    After colonisation