Indigenous Australians

type of ethnic group consisting of native peoples of the Australian continent and Torres Strait Islands

Indigenous Australians are the native people of Australia. They include the Aboriginal Australians as well as Torres Strait Islanders, and are often known together as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.[1]

Picture of an Aboriginal man in the Albert Namatjira art gallery, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia

In the past, Indigenous Australians used weapons like boomerangs sticks and spears to kill animals for food. It is unknown where they came from and how they appeared in Australia but it is estimated they have been living in their homeland around 60,000 years ago or more. Aboriginal people also have their own type of art.

Many Indigenous Australians suffered when Europeans from Britain and Ireland arrived in Australia. Disease and the loss of their hunting lands are two of the reasons.[2]

Aboriginal man playing a didgeridoo

History of Aboriginal AustraliaEdit

The first people of Australia were nomadic people who came to Australia from southeast Asia. Scientists do not know exactly when they arrived but it is at least 50,000 years ago.[3][4][5]

When the British came to Australia in 1788, they called these native people "aboriginals", meaning people who had lived there since the earliest times.

There are now about 650,000 Aboriginal people living in Australia.[6][7]


Aboriginal Australians believe that they have animal, plant, and human ancestors who created the world and everything in it. This process of creation is called Dreamtime. There are many songs and stories about Dreamtime, which generations of Aboriginal people have passed down to their children.


The modern-day art of the Aboriginal Australians is mostly based on old stories about Dreamtime.[8] Paintings of the people, spirits, and animals of Dreamtime cover sacred cliffs and rocks in tribal territories. Some of the pictures are made in red and yellow ochre and white clay, others have been carved into the rocks. Many are thousands of years old.


As well as the curved returning boomerang, Aboriginal Australians have traditionally used a straight, non-returning boomerang as a weapon for fighting and for hunting animals such as kangaroos.[source?]

Land claimsEdit

When British people came to live in Australia, they decided that the land was empty: that nobody "owned" the land, in the way Europeans used that word. This was called "terra nullius", Latin words for "empty land".[9]

In 1976, the Australian government agreed that Aboriginal people have rights to the land where their tribes were originally located and gained the right to use the land. On 3 June, 1992, the High Court of Australia said that the idea of terra nullius was wrong, and the government brought in new laws, to set up Native Title.[9] If Aboriginal people can prove they have always used particular land, it has not been sold, or changed by government acts, then the land could be claimed as aboriginal land.[9]

Other websitesEdit


  1. Studies, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (12 July 2020). "Indigenous Australians: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people".
  2. "Indigenous and European Contact in Australia". Britannica Kids. Retrieved 2021-06-07.
  3. Hesp, Patrick A. et al 1999. Aboriginal occupation on Rottnest Island, Western Australia, provisionally dated by aspartic acid racemisation assay of land snails to greater than 50 ka. Australian Archaeology, No 49 (1999)
  4. "Stone Pages Archaeo News: Australia colonized earlier than previously thought?". 2003. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  5. "Dreaming Online: Indigenous Australian Timeline". Archived from the original on 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
  6. Australia census: Five takeaways from a changing country". BBC News. 27 June 2017.
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics Archived 2010-04-29 at the Wayback Machine 2006 Census data
  8. "10 Facts About Aboriginal Art | Kate Owen Gallery".
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Terra Nullius". Aboriginal Victoria. Visit Victoria. Archived from the original on 2010-03-18. Retrieved 2010-01-11.