Before colonization, those native to the land of Australia were the Indigenous peoples or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. No one should confuse the simplicity of the labels as equating to a single group since these instead represent hundreds, each consisting of unique languages, distinct customs they choose to follow, and individual histories.
As of 2016, the estimate was a population of nearly 3.3% of the total in the country, or approximately 799,000 people. The prediction is that this number will grow to about one million indigenous people within the next decade, or by the year 2031.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population comprises a relatively youthful “age structure.” Most likely, that relates to the White Australia Policy from their history decades prior. Many groups like australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/a-white-australia strive to share this history.
It was a time when the non-Indigenous people saw it in the country’s best interest to steal the Indigenous children in what was, for lack of better terms, a form of elimination of the Indigenous population. Now, these people see a median age at approximately early 20s, where the non-Indigenous Australians range at nearly 40.
Cultural Facts Relating To The Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Despite their history, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities stand true to a spirituality held so long ago in the way they see the world. The Indigenous people retain those connections to their traditional lands, the languages familiar to them, and the culture so valuable to their families.
Many people who travel to Australia want to hear about this culture. The visitors want to learn about the traditions and the history. It’s important to recognize these individuals apart from colour, instead seeing their culture as the heart of their identity. Go here for more on that. Let’s check out some facts of which some people might not be aware.
** Historically In Australia
You will hear the term “First Nations people” referencing these people, since they were the traditional landowners. Archaeological proof shows Indigenous people tracing back well over 60,000 years, making them a civilisation boasting as the oldest “continuous” known.
These travellers came to Australia’s shores after migrating from Africa (some of the first humans to do so), crossing India’s coastlines and out of Asia to their destination. These people make up hundreds of cultural communities with distinctive languages in each of those and nearly 1000 different dialects before the 1788 colonial invasion. Each of these communities held its own beliefs and carried individual traditions with varied cultures.
** Family Among The Communities
First Nations “kinship” is a complex family set up of varied roles, family ties, and individual responsibilities, equating to the core that is their culture. The system for each group determines each person’s place in the “clan” and creates bonds for the people. Children also have obligations, including their family’s responsibilities, that will define how each family member will support the entire kinship.
The elders of a kinship represent a “bridge” between the past and now. Each shares knowledge and skills, plus tells their stories with the future generations who will come after them. The biological family is not a child’s only caretaker, but the entire kinship system will take the responsibility of caring for the young.
When colonisation imposed itself into their world, these kinships were separated, significantly impacting and traumatizing the long-term goals of passing on critical cultural intellect and disallowing maintaining cultural, social ties. Learn about the end of the White Australia Policy at https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/end-of-white-australia-policy/.
** Reconciliation. . .
Reconciliation references bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders together with non-First Nations peoples. The non-First Nations group’s idea is to attempt to overcome what’s happened in the past and close the division, quell any misunderstandings, and bring a point of equality within the country.
“Overcome what’s happened in the past…” That could be a little bit easier for the non-Indigenous, more so than for those who suffered exceptional loss during those times. At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have an intense spirituality, and with spirituality comes an extraordinary belief in forgiveness.
Without reconciliation in the country, “inequality and racism cannot be adequately addressed, develop a respectful and dignified culture, and handle the intergenerational traumas.”
It will take the non-First Nations people taking the necessary steps to engage with, educate on, and understand the culture and history of the Indigenous peoples. And that seems to be something for which everyone is hopeful.
The Flags Of The People
The Aboriginal people developed their flag, as have the Torres Strait Islander people. The Aboriginal people created their flag in the 70s, with colours designating varied components of their lives.
The black colour is a symbol representing the people. Yellow sits proudly as a sign of the sun, while red stands for the earth and the bond that the people share with the land surrounding them.
The Torres Strait Islander people developed their flag in the 90s. A feature represents a type of headdress referenced as a “deri” or “dharri,” showing as a star with five points that designate each island’s clan. The white symbolizes peace, while the green stands for the land, and the blue is representative of water. The black, again, is a sign for the people.
These flags serve as silent commemorations.
No one can change what happened in the past. The trauma and the suffering that each person endured will forever impact those who remain, since cultures, traditions, and kinships carry a permanent disruption. These things were the core of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives. Elders were not able to pass the stories or knowledge to whom they needed to.
That doesn’t mean that reconciliation is impossible or that, in some way, the Indigenous people can’t find a way to move forward as a community. It does mean that there is a long path to finding a place of normalcy in this new “world,” but not all these individuals are having an easy time as they travel it.