The Indigenous Australian peoples have been forming a cultural and spiritual connection with the land for tens of thousands of years. Through vibrant art, languages, lifestyles and storytelling, Indigenous culture has flourished over numerous tribes in all corners of the country.
Whether it’s the fascinating history and technique of Aboriginal Dreamtime artwork, or the wealth of languages spoken amongst different groups, let’s learn some amazing facts about Indigenous culture.
- Indigenous civilisation is the world’s oldest
Archaeological evidence has proved that Indigenous peoples have been inhabiting the land for at least 60,000 years. This length of time makes Indigenous culture the oldest ongoing civilization on Earth. Indigenous Australians have lived in complex, interconnecting communities for thousands of years before European contact, each nation with their own unique cultures, harvesting processes, hunting techniques and more.
- There are numerous languages
There are hundreds of different Indigenous groups and they are largely defined by their spoken language. Despite British attempts to quash the use of diverse language structures, there are still over 100 used today. These languages are completely distinct from one another, especially as the distance grows between nations.
- Indigenous culture thrives today
Indigenous culture continues to thrive as the world’s oldest civilisation. Art, language, rituals and stories keep Indigneous culture alive and well. What’s more, the Indigenous population is growing, currently at 700,000 people and projected to be up to one million people over the coming decades.
- Indigenous culture is Oz-wide
Many people carry the idea that Indigenous people only live in the outback or, to a lesser extent, the tropical north – but this simply isn’t true! In actuality, 35 percent of Indigenous Australians live in the country’s major cities, as well as 44 percent in rural towns and 21 percent in smaller, remote communities, meaning Indigenous Australian culture and heritage is alive and well in major conurbations.
- There is no “one” Indigenous culture
Indigenous Australians belong to specific social groups, with each “nation” containing their own distinct beliefs, culture and language. There may be many similarities among connected nations, but there are many important nuances between these communities that make them unique from each other.
- Traditions & heritage is passed on through stories
Indigenous culture and heritage continues to be passed down through generations via oral stories, rituals and songs. This is part of the ongoing worldview of the “everywhen”, a period of time that encompasses the past, present and future. The nation of the “everywhen” was essentially translated into the “Dreaming”, but this term doesn’t encapsulate the wealth of culture, language and stories that make up this worldview.
- Indigenous land is sacred
Indigenous Australians are known for their deep, spiritual connection to the land. It is said that Indigenous ancestors travelled across Australia creating natural landmarks out of the otherwise unformed landscape, and respect for these ancestors is today expressed through respect for country.
- The Rainbow Serpent is an important ancestral spirit
The Rainbow Serpent is the original creator god in Indigenous Australian lore, having provided the land with water, thus creating life. To certain communities, the Rainbow Serpent’s provision of water makes it the creator of the universe as a whole!
- Music is vital to Indigenous culture
Music plays an important role in Indigenous art and culture, with unique instruments like the didgeridoo and clapping sticks all part of the wealth of musical heritage that distinguishes the music from any other forms on Earth.