The traditional and most common way for Aboriginal people to communicate was orally. That means they talked to each other and passed on information by having conversations. Most Aboriginal history was passed down from the elders (older people) of the communities to the younger people through stories. This is how history was passed on from one generation to the next. See image 1
Traditional languages and the arrival of the British
Before British people arrived in Australia, there were around 250 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia. Not all Aborigines spoke the same language or understood each other because there were lots of languages that were used. These languages were all unique, which means that they were all different and special. See animation
When the British arrived, they did not try to learn any of the Aboriginal languages. The Aboriginal people were forced to learn enough English to communicate with the British people. They only used English words when it was necessary to give messages to the new settlers.
Here are some Aboriginal English words and their English translations:
|big mob||a lot of|
|gammon||pretending / joking|
Communication through art
In addition to oral communication, Aborigines shared information and told stories through their art. Aboriginal artworks can be found around Australia and some are thousands of years old. These artworks give us a valuable look into the history of Indigenous people. In Pilbara in Western Australia and in Olary in South Australia, some rock art is around 40 000 years old.
Most of the oldest Aboriginal paintings are found on rocks. The Aborigines probably chose rock to paint on because it is tough, long-lasting, and smooth to paint on. Many rock paintings are located in caves, as these areas are more protected from harsh weather. These paintings may have been made to record important ceremonies; to honour ancestors; to give information about animals in the area; or to pass on information on to future generations. See image 3
It was common for Aborigines to communicate through art forms other than rock painting. Some artwork included rock engravings, cave paintings, tree carvings, creating objects like boomerangs, and painting their bodies. All artwork had an important meaning to Aborigines and was used to tell stories or communicate information. See image 4