A Short Aboriginal History

Aboriginal History starts with the arrival of the Aborigine to Australia when Indonesia and Papua were joined by a land bridge during the last ice age and that they either walked across the land bridge or came in small boats.

As the Ice age ended the seas rose and Australia became isolated.

In Aboriginal History settlement mainly occurred in the south around the rivers and more fertile areas.

They formed clan groups /tribes living in a defined area and were limited to the foods available in those areas.

There were no domesticated animals or crop cultivations as they were hunter gatherers.

The population was more stable in the areas with more food, more nomadic in areas like the desert where food and water were hard to find and in short supply.

There was no concept of owning land as you were tied to the land by your spiritual links and what the land could provide for you.

In isolation they lived in this way for thousands of years.


The historical evidence of Aboriginal people shows that they are one of the oldest continual civilizations in the world. Remains have been found dating back 40,000 years such as Mungo Man.

The first recorded outside contact with Aboriginal was with Dutch sailors such as William Janszoon and Dirk Hartog in the early 1600’s. They were travelling from Holland to the Dutch Colonies in Indonesia, (the Spice Islands).

They saw Australia as the most barren county on earth inhabited by the poorest most wretched beings.

The Dutch decide not to colonize. The History of Aboriginals in Western Australia bares witness to these events.

In the far North, the Maccassans from Makassar and Celebes came south to collect Trepang, sea cucumber.

Their contact influenced the Aboriginal tribes of Arnhem Land with the introduction of steel, boats, cards and words, which are still in use today.

Capt James Cook, a British explorer, charted the more fertile eastern coast in 1770. Following his reports including a short Aboriginal history along with plants discovered on his voyage the British decided to make Australia a penal colony.

They sent 12 ships in the first fleet to settle on the East Coast of Australia in 1788.

This act is regarded by some as the first settlement of Australia and by others as an invasion of their land.

The first Governor had good intentions of reconciling with the original inhabitants.

He is quoted to have wanted, “To have them live amongst us and to learn to cultivate the land.

To relinquish their wandering life and become industrious, useful, and find protection and encouragement “

However, the local aborigines did not want to give up their centuries old way of life and the English settlers did not value and try to understand their culture.

At the time of the “invasion” the indigenous population was estimated to be around 300,000 and had long developed a culture that was their own.

In spite of the good intentions the clash of the two cultures was to have a lasting detrimental effect on the Aboriginals history.

As the settlers pushed further into the country and discovered fertile lands to open up to grazing.

The Historical Aboriginal resident who had no concept of English land ownership and whose values and culture where seen as inferior to the English were pushed further inland.

The Coniston Station Massacre, Artist, Peter Leo

Aboriginal history shows that the Aborigines were also exposed to diseases, such as small pox, suffered starvation do to loss of traditional lands and suffered many massacres.

Much of this cultural history has been handed down generation to generation through their art work and songs.

It is this art work we call Aboriginal Art which documents all these historical events because this long isolated People have never had a written language of their own.

As a consequence of these factors the resident Aboriginal population was reduced to around 100,000 and it was a widely held belief that they would die out.

Strategies were adopted to protect the remaining population. They were segregated onto reserves and missions and forcibly taken off their lands through assimilation policies.

It was thought they would have a better life if they became more like the whites.

This policy was a prelude to what is called the “Aboriginal stolen generation” whereby mixed race children were forcibly removed from their parents.

While being educated, trained to be domestics, tradesmen, farm workers etc so that they would integrate into the white society and forever change Aboriginal history.

It was thought that these "culturally backward" people needed protection.

They could not travel without permission and could not vote or own property unless they renounced their culture and cut family ties.

They could not purchase alcohol. If sent to jail they often committed suicide.

This situation was seen to be unsatisfactory and following on from the Civil Rights movement in the USA there began a movement in Australia for fairer treatment of the Australian Aboriginal.

During the 1960s they received the right to vote and to citizen ship and in a referendum in 1967 for equal rights received a 90% yes vote. This vote changed the history of Aboriginals.

The Aboriginal Flag was also gaining popularity with other Aboriginal rights movements such as the tent city embassy in Canberra.

Australia was also moving away from its white Australia policy that favored predominately European settlement. As Australia became more multi-cultural, it was seen that the differing groups could integrate into the country while still retaining their beliefs and cultures.

It was seen that the previous policies had not worked and that integration and reconciliation should be the way forward.

In the 1970s land rights began to be granted and after the Mabo decision in 1990s saw large tracts of land being returned to decedents of its Aboriginal History inhabitants

In spite of the changes in policies and the movements toward reconciliation the dispossession and past policies have had a lasting detrimental effect upon the people as shown in the recent Aboriginal History.

In Australia today the indigenous population are beset with alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, domestic violence, with educational and health outcomes that are far below that of other Australians.

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Aboriginal History,

Aboriginal Ceremonies, Aboriginal Education, Aboriginal Flag, Aboriginal Health, Aboriginal Social Problems, Aboriginal Stolen Generation, Aboriginal Suicide, Aboriginal Tribes, Australian Aboriginal Culture, Mabo, Prisons, Terra nulis, Our Gallery,