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Aboriginal Australians

First Nations peoples of the Australian continent / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Aboriginal Australians are the various First Nations peoples of the Australian mainland and many of its islands, such as the peoples of Tasmania, Fraser Island, Hinchinbrook Island, the Tiwi Islands, and Groote Eylandt, but excluding the ethnically distinct Torres Strait Islands. The term Indigenous Australians refers to Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders collectively.

Quick facts: Total population, Regions with significant po...
Aboriginal Australians
Total population
759,705 (2016)[1]
3.1% of Australia's population
Regions with significant populations
Flag_of_the_Northern_Territory.svg Northern Territory30.3%
Flag_of_Tasmania.svg Tasmania5.5%
Flag_of_Queensland.svg Queensland4.6%
Flag_of_Western_Australia.svg Western Australia3.9%
Flag_of_New_South_Wales.svg New South Wales3.4%
Flag_of_South_Australia.svg South Australia2.5%
Flag_of_the_Australian_Capital_Territory.svg Australian Capital Territory1.9%
Flag_of_Victoria_%28Australia%29.svg Victoria0.9%
Several hundred Australian Aboriginal languages, many no longer spoken, Australian English, Australian Aboriginal English, Kriol
Majority Christian (mainly Anglican and Catholic),[2] minority no religious affiliation,[2] and small numbers of other religions, various local indigenous religions grounded in Australian Aboriginal mythology
Related ethnic groups
Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal Tasmanians, Papuans
Aboriginal dwellings in Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, 1923. Image: Herbert Basedow

Aboriginal people comprise many distinct peoples who developed across Australia for 65,000+ years. These peoples have a broadly shared, though complex, genetic history, but only in the last 200 years have been defined and started to self-identify as a single group. Aboriginal identity has changed over time and place, with family lineage, self-identification and community acceptance all of varying importance.

Each group of Aboriginal peoples lived on and maintained its own country and developed sophisticated trade networks, inter-cultural relationships, law, and religions.

Aboriginal people have a wide variety of cultural practices and beliefs that make up the oldest continuous cultures in the world, and have a strong connection to their country.[3][4] At the time of European colonisation of Australia, they consisted of complex cultural societies with hundreds of languages and varying degrees of technology and settlements.

Contemporary Aboriginal beliefs are a complex mixture, varying by region and individual across the continent.[5] They are shaped by traditional beliefs, the disruption of colonisation, religions brought to the continent by Europeans, and contemporary issues.[5][6][7] Traditional cultural beliefs are passed down and shared by dancing, stories, songlines, and art that collectively weave an ontology of modern daily life and ancient creation known as Dreaming.

In the past, Aboriginal people lived over large sections of the continental shelf and were isolated on many of the smaller offshore islands and Tasmania when the land was inundated at the start of the Holocene inter-glacial period, about 11,700 years ago. Despite this, Aboriginal people maintained extensive networks within the continent and certain groups maintained relationships with Torres Strait Islanders and the Makassar people of modern-day Indonesia. Studies of Aboriginal groups' genetic makeup are ongoing, but evidence suggests that they have genetic inheritance from ancient Asian but not more modern peoples, and share some similarities with Papuans, but have been isolated from Southeast Asia for a very long time. Before extensive European colonisation, there were over 250 Aboriginal languages.[8][9]

In the 2016 Australian Census, Indigenous Australians comprised 3.3% of Australia's population, with 91% of these identifying as Aboriginal only, 5% Torres Strait Islander, and 4% both. Aboriginal people also live throughout the world as part of the Australian diaspora.

Most Aboriginal people today speak English and live in cities, and some may use Aboriginal phrases and words in Australian Aboriginal English (which also has a tangible influence of Aboriginal languages in the phonology and grammatical structure). Many but not all also speak traditional languages.

Aboriginal people, along with Torres Strait Islander people, have a number of severe health and economic deprivations in comparison with the wider Australian community.