The Australian Aboriginal Peoples – A Study by Piet Korse MHM

The Dreamtime is a term that describes unique stories and beliefs owned and held by different Australian Aboriginal groups. The history of the Dreamtime, word and its meanings, says something about the development of the ideas held about the Aboriginal world, and how they are expressed through art.

First of all the land (or country) is what defines Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people from the coast describe themselves as “saltwater people”, those from river areas are “freshwater people”, and those from central arid regions are “desert people”.

“Country is not just a beautiful place, to us it is everything,” “It holds out stories, our religion, our customs and our ancestors.”

This is because Aboriginal peoples believe their ancestral spirits emerged from the earth and the sky. These ancestral beings are the hero-creators, and it’s through their journeys that Aboriginal people believe all living things are created. These creation forces are constantly present, hence the strong cultural connection between Aboriginal people, the land and place.

In some places, the spirits who created the world are known aswandjina rain and water spirits. Major ancestral spirits include the Rainbow serpent, Baiame, Dirawong and Bunjil. Similarly, the Arrernte people of central Australia believe that humanity originated from great superhuman ancestors who brought the sun, wind and rain as a result of breaking through the surface of the earth when waking from their slumber.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you very much Piet for taking the time and effort to compile this informative and beautifully illustrated overview of the Australian Aboriginal peoples. I often visited Nhulunbuy in Northeast Arnhem Land and used to visit the nearby Yolngu people in Yirrkala when staying with my sister.
    As you mention, the stars and planets play a significant role in Aboriginal storytelling, and it may be of interest to readers that NASA has chosen a site close to Nhulunbuy to build an equatorial satellite launch facility!

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