The Effects of European Immigration on Australian Aboriginal Culture

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The Aborigines are the indigenous people of Australia. According to their traditional beliefs, the Aborigines have inhabited Australia since the beginning of time, but most modern dating techniques have placed the first native Australians at closer to 60,000 years ago, based on carbon dating of fossils and knowledge of geological changes in the region. Sea levels have fluctuated throughout history and were 200 meters lower at the time the ancestors of the Aborigines were thought to have made their way to Australia. This still left large expanses of open water that had to be crossed- up to 100 km- indicating that these people had developed some sort of sea-faring technology long before any other people. The Aboriginal culture is thought to be the oldest continuous culture still surviving today. It was traditionally a nomadic hunter-gatherer society, with intimate knowledge of the land and the seasons. The Dreaming was the central belief of all Aboriginal groups, a set of sacred stories of how all things came to be and how to live their lives. They emphasized continuity above change, and this is how the Aborigines lived for thousands of years, isolated and undisturbed.

In 1770 Captain James Cook landed in Botany Bay, claiming Australia for Britain and signaling the beginning of a flood of Europeans into the continent. Britain at this time operated under a policy of "terra nullis," regarding new territories. Under this policy, if the land in question was not being farmed, grazed or actively developed in some way, it was considered uninhabited and free for colonization, regardless of any native peoples (Broome 26). Thus Captain Cook and Britain were able to justify claiming Australia while knowing fully that the Abo...

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...ponsible for the actions of the past. This is a perfect illustration of the general attitudes towards Aborigines today. While much has been done to acknowledge the damage done to Aboriginal society, there is still a long way to go in repairing this damage. The main fight now will be against racism, prejudice and ignorance in the minds of the people.


Bourke, Colin, et. al., ed. Aboriginal Australia: an Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies, sec. ed. University of Queensland Press. 1998.

Brock, Peggy. Outback Ghettos: Aborigines, Institutionalization and Survival. Cambridge University Press. 1993.

Broome, Richard. Aboriginal Australians: Black Response to White Dominance 1788. George Allen and Unwin: Sydney. 1982.

Drury, Nevill, and Voigt, Anna. Wisdom from the Earth: The Living Legacy of the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Shambala: Boston. 1998.

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