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THE CULTURE

Aboriginal Culture and People

The Aboriginal culture in Australia is considered the oldest living culture in the world. There are many Aboriginal tribes in Australia. Each has its own dialect and traditions, but most share similar art forms and spiritual ideas.

Aboriginal art has mainly religious functions, and much of it describes Dreamtime, the time of creation. Dreamtime stories describe how ancestors formed the land and clashed with other creatures. Rock paintings depicting the creation period are found throughout Australia.

British colonization and immigration to Australia has caused Aboriginal culture to fade. In the 1800s violence erupted between European settlers and the Aborigines. The 1900s saw Europeans taking Aborigines to missions and reserves, not unlike the reserves formed for Native Canadians. In 1951 "assimilation" was an official strategy of an Australian government that wanted to do away with Aboriginal culture. It is only recently that other Australians have begun to recognize Aboriginal land rights and appreciate Aboriginal culture.

In 1987 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, an area sacred to the Aboriginal people, was handed back to the Aborigines. Traditional Aboriginal names are also being returned. For example, Australia's landmark monolith, formerly named Ayer's Rock, is now called Uluru, an Aboriginal name meaning "great pebble."

Today there are still some tribal communities, mainly in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, that live traditional Aboriginal lifestyles.

A few words from Aboriginal culture may be recognizable to North Americans. The Boomerang is both a weapon and a clapping instrument used by Aborigines during songs and dances. A Didgeridoo is a long hand-painted wind instrument made of wood. Both are popular with tourists looking for keepsakes from The Outback.

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Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre

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