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Australian Aboriginal Beliefs


The Aboriginal people migrated from Southeast Asia to Australia between 40,000 ... Totemism 'Totemism', was a very central part of their belief system. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Australian Aboriginal Beliefs

Australian Aboriginal Beliefs
  • By
  • Caitlin Peterson
  • Constance McIntosh
  • Chris Cochran

Indigenous Peoples of Australia
  • There are two recognized Indigenous peoples in
    Australia the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait
  • This presentation will focus on the Aboriginal
    people and their beliefs.

Aboriginal People and their Beliefs
  • The Aboriginal people migrated from Southeast
    Asia to Australia between 40,000-150,000 years
    ago, making them one of the oldest and longest
    surviving cultures in the world.
  • One hunting technique they found useful was
    called Firestick Farming. This entailed the
    burning of large areas to let fresh grazing
    grasses grow. These grasses attracted game
    animals such as the kangaroo.

Aboriginal People and their Beliefs
  • They were hunter-gatherers who liked to explore
    and go on "walkabouts.
  • Walkabouts" also had a spiritual meaning to the
    Aboriginal. They viewed the land as sacred and
    their journeys became a dream journey connecting
    them to Dreamtime.
  • They would recount their walkabouts in songs and
    pass them on through the generations. These
    songs, also known as songlines, depicted their
    journey through sacred pathways and would convey
    a spiritual message.
  • The Dream Journey is the Aboriginal path to
    spiritual renewal because the people and the land
    are inseparable. These are a people in deep
    harmony with nature.
  • Source About Dreamtime web site on 15 Nov. 2004

  • The expression 'Dreamtime' is most often used to
    refer to the 'time before time', or 'the time of
    the creation of all things', while 'Dreaming' is
    often used to refer to an individual's or group's
    set of beliefs or spirituality
  • Source Indigenous Australia web site on 14 Nov.
    04 http//

  • Aboriginal spirituality and beliefs are centered
    around creation stories.
  • These stories are recounted during their
    Dreamtime ceremonies and through oral traditions.
  • The stories tech how their ancestors left their
    mark on the land and are manifested in particular
    sacred sites all over Australia.

  • The group or tribe would be called together,
    sometimes with the use of the yidaki (also known
    as the didjeridu), and tell great stories of how
    everything was created in a ceremonial
  • These ceremonial performances passed on the laws
    and beliefs of and individual tribe and increased
    creative energy within the world.
  • Side note The Yidaki origins are sacred and only
    known to Yolngu men of the Northern Territory.

  • Totemism", was a very central part of their
    belief system. They identified with plants,
    animals, and anything they considered natural
  • They believed that they could influence and
    manipulate these totems by performing an
    increase ceremony conducted by fully initiated
    men in their tribe. These ceremonies insured the
    survival of their tribe and were a sacred part of
    their ritual life.
  • At birth, each Aborigine is presented with a
    totem, also called Dreamings, by their
    grandfather. As they get older, they are taught
    the "Dreaming" dance associated with their totem.
    While performing the Dreaming dance they
    spiritually connect with the land and bring the
    power of the Dreaming to life.

Vision Quest
  • Dreamtime is also called a Vision Quest which is
    an attempt to make contact with a spirit for
    protection and/or to acquire a supernatural
  • Vision Quests are brought about by fasting,
    isolation, and extreme exposure to the elements.
  • Vision Quests are normally performed by male
    youths as a right of passage into maturity.

  • There are many different language groups
    including Kamilaroi, Bandalang, Walmajarri,
    Gumati, Pitjantjatjara, Nganyatjarr,
    Wik-Mungkan, and Kunja/Mardgong.
  • A mixture of English and Aboriginal language has
    developed over time.
  • Its called Creole and it makes communication
    between different language groups possible.

Kamilaroi and Bandalang
  • Kamilaroi Language
  • Giwiir man
  • Yinarr woman
  • Gaay child
  • Baayina father
  • Barran boomerang
  • Yaraay sun
  • Bandalang Language
  • Jahjam child
  • Mahmang father
  • Wajungjar mother
  • Babar sky
  • Yalngan sun
  • Bargan boomerang
  • Uabur one
  • Bulahbu two

Ceremonial Dress
  • Body paint and headdresses help the Australians
    to connect their physical bodies to the spirit
  • Each language group has their own type of
    ceremonial dress.

Feasts and Festivals
  • Ceremonies are held that involve people from
    different language groups.
  • They bring gifts and raw materials to trade.
  • Aborigines perform songs and dances to celebrate
    daily activities.
  • After the feast the elders meet to discuss laws
    and ensure the survival of the Dreaming.

Artwork and Ochre Paint
  • Ochre is one of the main mediums used in
    paintings and body paint.
  • In order to make ochre paint you first need to
    crush the ochre stone into soft powder. Then,
    using a stick, stir in either emu egg yolk or gum
    from a Eucalyptus tree.
  • Ochre is easiest to find near rivers or streams
    where the rock surface has been eroded.

A Soakage in Sandhill Country
  • An important aspect of aboriginal stories
    involves where water can be found.
  • This is a depiction of a waterhole that is
    surrounded by sweeping sandhills.

Mina Mina Dreaming
  • In the Dreamtime there was a huge fight between
    Yarla and Ngarlajiyi.
  • This is a picture of the Ngarlajiyi plant with
    yatura (roots), and ngama (surface tendrils).

Fire Dreaming
  • This painting depicts a fire that is set by the
    people in order to flush out Liwirringki
    (burrowing skinks) so that they can be more
    easily caught for food.

"Brock Brock" Frog Dreaming
  • Brock Brock, or Wulwarna, is the frog that
    senses the coming of the rains and comes out to
    sing in them.
  • He is the focus of the Jardiwampa ceremonies.

Australian Aboriginal Land Beliefs
  • In the beginning . . .
  • When European settlers first arrived in Australia
    they found the Aborigines living as nomads on the
    land. Since European notions of land ownership
    left no room for this kind of behavior they
    assumed that the natives had no connection to the
    land. They could not have been more wrong.

Religious Significance of the Land
  • The land is the Aborigines tie to the Dreaming
    sacred sites mark where ancestors went down
    and serve as ties to ancestors. A persons link
    to one part of the land cannot be transferred to
    any other part.
  • Aboriginal worship practices all center on the
    land maintaining certain sites, preserving
    certain species, etc.
  • Songs about the Dreaming are so concerned with
    the land that they can be used as maps, even
    across unfamiliar terrain. Land is a record of
    the Dreaming.

Social Significance of the Land
  • The land is the source of a persons identity.
    Totem is determined by where a person was
  • Relationship to a certain ancestor gives
    significance to certain sites or features of the
  • Aborigines would rather die than let their land
    be desecrated. When Europeans arrived they had
    to slaughter hundreds of Aborigines in order to
    settle the land.

History of the Land
  • At first Aborigines lived as nomads on the land,
    moving from one sacred site to another as their
    beliefs demanded.
  • When Europeans began to settle, Aborigines died
    by the hundreds defending their land.
  • After many court battles, Aborigines now have
    rights to most sacred and historically
    significant sites.
  • They impose strict rules on the visitation of
    these sites to protect them from desecration. An
    elder must accompany any visitor to holy sites
    and some sites may not be visited at any time.

Aboriginal Social Structure
  • The Aboriginal Australian people have a very
    highly defined and complicated social structure.
    Regulated by totemic laws and land customs they
    constructed a very sophisticated social system.

Language Distribution Map
  • Aboriginal people view themselves in terms of
    their language-groups.
  • These language groups are divided into clans
    which are either patrilineal or matrilineal
  • Members of these clans are not allowed to marry
    within the clan, so there are very complicated
    relations between the clans within each
    language-group to regulate these cross-clan

Some Social Customs
  • Everything done within a language group is done
    for the sake of the community or with the
    community in mind. Results of hunting are shared
    based on very specific traditions so that
    everyone is provided for.
  • Some members of the community are prohibited from
    speaking to each other but this, they specify, is
    a sign of respect.
  • Members of the community who behave in a way that
    is destructive to the community are publicly
    punished by the Elders in order to discourage
    such behaviors in the future.
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