Aboriginal Australians

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Aboriginal Australians
Australian Aboriginal Flag.svg
Total population
759,705 (2016) [1]
3.1% of Australia's population
Regions with significant populations
Flag of the Northern Territory.svg  Northern Territory 30.3%
Flag of Tasmania.svg  Tasmania 5.5%
Flag of Queensland.svg  Queensland 4.6%
Flag of Western Australia.svg  Western Australia 3.9%
Flag of New South Wales.svg  New South Wales 3.4%
Flag of South Australia.svg  South Australia 2.5%
Flag of the Australian Capital Territory.svg  Australian Capital Territory 1.9%
Flag of Victoria (Australia).svg  Victoria 0.9%
Several hundred Indigenous Australian languages, many no longer spoken, Australian English, Australian Aboriginal English, Kriol
Majority Christian (mainly Anglican and Catholic), [2] large minority no religious affiliation, [2] small numbers of other religions, various local indigenous religions grounded in Australian Aboriginal mythology
Related ethnic groups
Torres Strait Islanders, Tasmanian Aboriginals, Papuans
Aboriginal dwellings in Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, 1923. Image: Herbert Basedow 186 Aboriginal dwellings w480.jpg
Aboriginal dwellings in Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, 1923. Image: Herbert Basedow

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

Indigenous Australians are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia, descended from groups that existed in Australia and surrounding islands before British colonisation. The time of arrival of the first Indigenous Australians 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. Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP. Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP. Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years and 125,000 years BP.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Tasmania island state of Australia

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. It is located 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The state encompasses the main island of Tasmania, the 26th-largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of around 526,700 as of March 2018. Just over forty percent of the population resides in the Greater Hobart precinct, which forms the metropolitan area of the state capital and largest city, Hobart.


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

Australian diaspora

The term Australian diaspora refers to the approximately 310,000 Australian citizens who today live outside Australia. The largest percentage of Australian emigrants (48%) are based in Europe, and the next largest percentage (24%) are in Asia. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement enables Australians and New Zealanders to migrate between Australia and New Zealand.

Australian Aboriginal English (AAE) refers to a dialect of Australian English used by a large section of the Indigenous Australian population. It is made up of a number of varieties which developed differently in different parts of Australia. These varieties are generally said to fit along a continuum ranging from light forms, close to Standard Australian English, to heavy forms, closer to Kriol. There are generally distinctive features of accent, grammar, words and meanings, as well as language use. AAE is not to be confused with Kriol, which is a separate language from English spoken by over 30,000 people in Australia. Speakers have been noted to tend to change between different forms of AAE depending on whom they are speaking to, e.g. striving to speak more like Australian English when speaking to a non-Indigenous English-speaking person.

Indigenous Australian health and wellbeing statistics indicate Aboriginal Australians are much less healthy than the rest of the Australian community. In 1989, the National Aboriginal Health Strategy was created. In 2010–11 the most common cause of hospital admissions for Indigenous Australians in mainland Australia was for kidney dialysis treatment. A 2007 study found that the 11 largest preventable contributions to the indigenous burden of disease in Australia were from tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, high body mass, inadequate physical activity, low intake of fruit and vegetables, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unsafe sex, child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. The 26% of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas experience 40% of the health gap of Indigenous Australians overall.


1981 event Australian aboriginals.jpg
Aboriginal dancers in 1981
Glen Namundja.jpg
Arnhem Land artist at work

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

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was an Australian government department that existed between December 1972 and March 1990.

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

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

Sir Francis Gerard Brennan,, is an Australian lawyer and jurist who served as the 10th Chief Justice of Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser appointed Brennan to the Court in 1981.

<i>Mabo v Queensland (No 2)</i> legal case heard in the High Court of Australia in 1992

Mabo v Queensland was a landmark High Court of Australia decision in 1992 recognising native title in Australia for the first time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitions from Aboriginal Australians

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

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

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

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

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

Definitions from academia

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

An Aboriginal encampment, near the Adelaide foothills, 1854 Alexander Schramm - An Aboriginal encampment, near the Adelaide foothills - Google Art Project.jpg
An Aboriginal encampment, near the Adelaide foothills, 1854

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tobacco usage

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

Alcohol usage

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


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

Aboriginal Australian peoples

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

Map Victoria Aboriginal tribes (colourmap).jpg
Aboriginal Tasmania Map.png
Traditional Lands of Australian Aboriginal tribes near Darwin, Australia.png
Traditional lands of the Australian aboriginal tribes around Cairns.png
Clockwise from upper left: Traditional lands Victoria, Tasmania, Cairns and Darwin.

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

See also

Related Research Articles

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The Stolen Generations were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals of those referred to as "half-caste" children were conducted in the period between approximately 1905 and 1967, although in some places mixed-race children were still being taken into the 1970s.

Torres Strait Islands archipelago north of Australia

The Torres Strait Islands are a group of at least 274 small islands which lie in Torres Strait, the waterway separating far northern continental Australia's Cape York Peninsula and the island of New Guinea.

Torres Strait Islanders ethnic group

Torres Strait Islanders ( ) are the indigenous people of the Torres Strait Islands, part of Queensland, Australia. They are distinct from the Aboriginal people of the rest of Australia, and are generally referred to separately. There are also two Torres Strait Islander communities on the nearby coast of the mainland at Bamaga and Seisia.

Melanesians Broad ethnolinguistic classification

Melanesians are the predominant inhabitants of Melanesia. Most speak either one of the many Austronesian languages, especially in the Oceanic branch of Malayo-Polynesian, or one of the Papuan languages. Other languages spoken are the numerous creoles or pidgins in the region, such as Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, Solomon Islands Pijin, Bislama, and Papuan Malay. Melanesians occupy islands in a wide area from Eastern Indonesia to as far east as the islands of Vanuatu and Fiji.

1967 Australian referendum (Aboriginals)

The Australian referendum of 27 May 1967, called by the Holt Government, approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967, which became law on 10 August 1967 following the results of the referendum. The amendments were overwhelmingly endorsed, winning 90.77% of votes cast and carrying in all six states. These amendments altered sections 51(xxvi), and 127, having the immediate effect of including Aboriginal Australians in determinations of population, and also empowering the Federal Parliament to legislate specifically for this racial group. The other question put in the referendum, to allow the number of seats in the House of Representatives to be increased without increasing the number of senators, was rejected. It received majority support in only one state – New South Wales – and received about 40.25% "yes" votes nationwide.

Many Australian Aboriginal cultures have or traditionally had a manually coded language, a signed counterpart of their oral language. This appears to be connected with various speech taboos between certain kin or at particular times, such as during a mourning period for women or during initiation ceremonies for men, as was also the case with Caucasian Sign Language but not Plains Indian Sign Language, which did not involve speech taboo, or deaf sign languages, which are not encodings of oral language. There is some similarity between neighboring groups and some contact pidgin similar to Plains Indian Sign Language in the American Great Plains.

The indigenous peoples of Oceania are Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians, Papuans and Australian Aboriginals. With the notable exceptions of Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and Guam, indigenous peoples make up the majority of the populations of Oceania.

There are several hundred Indigenous peoples of Australia; many are groupings that existed before the British colonisation of Australia in 1788. Within each country, people lived in clan groups: extended families defined by various forms of Australian Aboriginal kinship. Inter-clan contact was common, as was inter-country contact, but there were strict protocols around this contact.

Although Australia has no official languages, English has been entrenched as the de facto national language since European settlement. Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon, and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling. General Australian serves as the standard dialect.

Meriam or the Eastern Torres Strait language is the language of the people of the small islands of Mer, Waier and Dauar, Erub, and Ugar in the eastern Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia. In the Western Torres Strait language, Kalaw Lagaw Ya, it is called Mœyam or Mœyamau Ya. It is the only Papuan language in Australian territory.

History of Indigenous Australians

The History of Indigenous Australians began at least 65,000 years ago when humans first populated Australia.

Indigenous Australians commit crimes and are imprisoned at a disproportionately high rate in Australia. According to one source, there is "gross overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders at all stages of the criminal justice system". The 2016 Australian Census documented that there were 649,171 Indigenous people, who are either Australian Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders, in Australia, accounting for 2.8 percent of the population.

Commonwealth, State, and Territory Parliaments of Australia have passed Aboriginal land rights legislation.

Umbuygamu, or Morrobalama (Morrobolam), is an extinct Paman language from Princess Charlotte Bay in far-north Queensland.

The Unduyamo (Andooyomo) were an indigenous Australian people who once lived around the northern shore of Newcastle Bay, Cape York Peninsula Queensland. It has been hypothesized that, among other aspects of their life, they functioned as religious specialists for Torres Strait Islanders, whose mastery of increase rituals attracted the native mariners from the north. Together with the Gudang, who apparently spoke the same language and whose territory ran from Cape York to Fly Point opposite Pabaju, the Unduyamo had strong cultural, kin and trade ties with the Kaurareg, the southwestern islanders centered around Muralag, with whom they enjoyed an alliance that permitted reciprocal residence on each other's territory. All three groups regarded the Yadhaigana and Gumakudin as hostile.

Section 127 of the Australian Constitution was the final section within Chapter VII, and mandated the exclusion of Aboriginal Australians from population counts conducted for electoral purposes. It came into effect on 1 January 1901 when the founding states federated into the Commonwealth of Australia, and was repealed effective 10 August 1967 following the 1967 referendum.

The Kokangol (Koko-Gol), or Yuwula, are said to have been an Indigenous Australian people of Queensland. Some dispute this, suggesting the name may be a synonym for Aghu Tharnggala, or may simply be the name of a language consultant.

Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Australian conference or agency

The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders was a civil rights organisation which campaigned for the welfare of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. It was influential in lobbying in favour of the 1967 Referendum on Aboriginal Australians.


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