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Aborigines doing their traditional painting

The first people who immigrated to the continent were the indigenous people, also called Aborigines (. "Ab origine" = "from the beginning"). The common names "Aboriginal" or "Aborigine" come from the Europeans and are not used by the indigenous people. In Australia one increasingly comes across the term "indigenous people". The individual clans and tribes give themselves names such as "Yolngu" (north), "Murri" (east), "Koori" (southeast), "Nanga" (south), "Nyungar" (southwest), "Wonghi" (west) and many others. The Aborigines had developed their own culture and languages ​​long before the white man discovered the country. Their lives were perfectly adapted to the requirements of the country, their social order was well developed and their skills and knowledge of nature are still amazing today.

More than 200 years ago, the existence of this indigenous people was unknown to the Europeans and the "Terra Australis", the assumed southern continent, had not yet been discovered. Until then, the Aborigines could live in harmony with nature undisturbed and develop a complex culture. However, after the Europeans claimed the "Terra nullius" (it was believed that it was not inhabited by any people), the Aborigines were in danger of extinction or complete adaptation, which the White Man promoted. With the demise of numerous tribes, a large part of the culture was lost and with it the identity and the will to live of the Aborigines. Although things have improved for these people today, the Aboriginal people are still a disadvantaged minority in their own country.

Aboriginal history of Australia

More recent finds assume that they immigrated to Australia from Asia 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. During the last cold periods, the people of Southeast Asia had the opportunity to expand south and colonize the Australian mainland, as the sea level had fallen sharply during the Ice Age and only a narrow strait separated the Asian islands from the Australian continent. The abundance of food in the tropical north and the uninhabited nature of Australia prompted the Aborigines to spread quickly across the continent, as far as Tasmania, which at that time was not yet separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait. Later, when the sea level rose again as a result of the fading Ice Age, the indigenous people were naturally isolated and were unable to intermingle with other races.

The nomadic tribes lived in simple huts or under windshields made of twigs or bark. Long spears, boomerangs and spear throwers (woomera) were used for hunting. The women often carried a club made of hardwood (nulla nulla) with them, which they used as a weapon. In addition to hunting, the boomerang was used for fighting, as a tool and for sporting competitions. A distinction is made between the returning and the non-returning boomerang (Kylie).

Their number at that time is estimated at 750,000 to 1.5 million. They lived (and to a small extent still live today) as hunters and gatherers and roamed the country as nomads. They never developed into a sedentary lifestyle, and given the wealth and size of the country, this was never necessary - the country gave them what they needed. Their social organization is developed, but only up to the level of the tribe. Each tribe owned a certain piece of land, which was used to live on. The indigenous people did not know the concept of property, instead they saw themselves as guardians of the land.

The saddest chapter in the long history of the Aborigines began with the arrival of the first convict transports by the British and the subsequent settlers after 1788. The colonization by the white man had a devastating influence on the natives, they were hunted and treated as subhuman. In doing so, the settlers could have made use of much of the knowledge that the Aborigines had about the geography of the country. Attempts to relocate tribes provoked conflict because the religious ties to their territories were strong. From the beginning of the 18th century an estimated 300,000 Aborigines, only around 75,000 remained in 1947.

It was not until the late 1950s that more humane treatment of the indigenous people became an issue in Australia, but this was interrupted by events such as the British atomic bomb tests at Maralinga, which took place in the desert of South Australia from 1953 to 1964. Protection or resettlement of the Aborigines living there did not take place at that time. In 1994 the government paid the Aborigines $ 13.5 million in compensation for the nuclear tests carried out in the desert. Even if the contamination of this area and the suffering of the Aborigines caused by it cannot be outweighed in money, it is at least a sign of a moral rethinking and the beginning of mutual understanding.

In 1960 the indigenous people were granted civil rights (including the right to vote), but it was not until 1967 that a constitutional amendment made it possible for them to be included in censuses! The "Aboriginal Land Rights Act" passed in 1976 returned important tribal territories to the original owners. In 1983 they were given an important sanctuary, Uluru (Ayers Rock). The self-determination demanded by the indigenous people and promised several times by liberal-minded politicians has not yet been contractually confirmed. The national "Sorry Day", celebrated for the first time on May 26, 1998, on which Australian citizens apologized for the crimes against the Aborigines, also had a signal effect. However, the natives are still waiting in vain for the government to follow this gesture, also officially asking for forgiveness and thus realizing their injustice.

The Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commission (), which emerged from the Aboriginal Development Commission () founded in 1980, promotes the social and economic development of the Aborigines. According to the motto "Help for self-help", this organization provides financial means and cheap loans that are supposed to help the Aborigines to start a livelihood. Especially in the arts and crafts, many succeeded in becoming self-employed and making a living by producing and selling didgeridoos and the traditional dot paintings popular with tourists. Some shopping centers and cattle ranches are also run by Aborigines. Still, the situation for the natives remains critical: 59 percent have an annual income of less than $ 12,000 and 55 percent live mostly on state funds. High unemployment, alcoholism and the reluctance to work in the economic system of white men represent the problems to be overcome today. The education of the Aborigines is also still debated - it should contain aspects of both cultures.

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