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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people before 1788

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Indigenous Australians

Indigenous people are the people who are original to a place. In Australia, there are two main indigenous groups. There are the Aboriginal people and there are the Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal people are from mainland Australia and the islands to the south of Australia. Aboriginal people have been in Australia for over 50 000 years. Their ancestors walked across a land bridge from Asia to settle in Australia.

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Torres Strait Islander people live on islands in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Torres Strait Islander people's ancestors were from Melanesia.

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Daily life for Indigenous Australians

Most Indigenous communities living in Australia were semi-nomadic. They moved around an area following food sources instead of staying in the one place all year. This meant their food would not run out.

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Torres Strait Islander people grew food and farmed animals such as pigs. They also collected some wild foods.

The Indigenous people living on the mainland of Australia were hunter-gatherers. They collected a wide variety of foods, such as kangaroo, emu, wombats, goanna, snakes, birds, and many insects such as honey ants.

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Indigenous tools

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people might have spent some of the day making tools. A tool used in hunting was the spear, launched by a woomera or spear-thrower. Boomerangs were also used by some mainland Indigenous peoples.

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Baskets and bags were woven with string made from plants. Other tools were made from stone and shells.

Ceremonies

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people marked important events with ceremonies. The birth of a child or the change in seasons was celebrated with dance, music, body art, painting, songs and the sharing of Dreaming stories.

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Sacred sites

All land is important to people but some places are considered sacred places to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because they have special Dreaming meanings.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people believe that ancestral beings shaped the land and created all the plants and animals. Each family group is responsible for looking after their sacred sites in their area.

After 1788

The traditional way of life changed for many Indigenous Australians with the arrival of British settlers in 1788. Few European settlers knew or cared about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customs, laws and family life. Many Indigenous Australians had to adopt the British way of life.


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