As every human society has ways of governing itself, Australian government started thousands of years ago following the settlement of the Aboriginal people in the continent. Unlike the other European settlers, Aboriginal people had very different ways of organizing and governing themselves. Despite of the various Aboriginal cultures in the throughout Australia, there are similar features shared among most Aboriginal cultures. Some of the common features of the Aboriginal societies revolve around family organization, trade, travel, home, art, and education. The Aboriginal people have occupied Australia for approximately 40,000 years even though very little is known regarding them for this duration of time. However, the Aboriginal people have experienced major changes in their culture, identity, and society since 1788 due to various factors.
History and Culture of the Aboriginal People:
Aboriginal people, identity, culture, and society has been characterized by two different aspects i.e. one showing great continuities through space and time as well as displaying great change through time and huge diversity across space on the other hand (Horton, 2009). In addition to being truth, both characteristics and aspects of the Aborigines have been the subject of caricatures of Aboriginal society by white. Moreover, the both characteristics have had a significant impact on the politics of Aboriginal Australia. This group of people has been in Australia for over 50,000 years making Australia to be considered as the home of the world's first people ("Aborigines," n.d.). Actually, the word aborigine is used to mean first or earliest known group of people in the world.
Since the Aboriginal people were still living through hunting and gathering, and using stone tools around 200 years ago, they were regarded to be similar to the Paleolithic people of Europe. The Aboriginal people were like fossils that remained unchanged for thousands of years whereas the Paleolithic people had eventually developed pottery, agriculture, and metals and wheels in their way to civilization. Consequently, the seemingly simple lifestyle of the Aborigines contributed to the emergence of two other misconceptions i.e. that these people were culturally uniform and that they had minimal attachment to the land.
In relation to their social organization, the Aborigines lived daily in family groups, met during ceremonies, and banded together as hordes ("Traditional Life," n.d.). Unlike European settlers, aboriginal families lived together in large groups and shared food and other resources with one another. In such family organization, these people shared other tasks like caring for children, hunting, making tools, and building shelters. The shelters of the Aboriginal people were built around campsites as they slept out of doors near small fires. In the entire year, Aboriginal people would move to locations where they could find what they needed, especially food since they did not live in one place. As soon as the resources in that location got low, the Aboriginal people could move to a different location.
Every Aboriginal culture would move around within a specific area of land that was their homeland as every group was strongly linked to its homeland country. As a result of this connection to their land, each group knew all its geographical features, plants, watercourses, and animals very well. Despite of living in their own lands, Aboriginal societies could sometimes travel further distances that enabled them to come into contact with other groups. Therefore, the Aborigines formed links with different cultures and communicate the news in the entire country.
The other characteristic of the Aboriginal people and cultures is their practice of many forms of art. These people painted weapons, rocks, their own bodies, and tools in addition to engraving pictures, symbols, and patterns into wood and rock ("Aboriginal Society," n.d.). In addition to having a rich tradition of stories, dance, song, and poetry, the Aborigines also created sculptures out of wax, wood, and rocks ("Introduction to Aboriginal Art," n.d.). Learning these forms of art was an important part of being an adult as the arts were connected to the law. Consequently, arts were part of the formal education of older children because learning them meant taking on responsibilities. On the contrary, younger children were taught basic practical skills like the process of gathering food because they had less responsibility.
There are three main aspects of the Aboriginal social structure i.e. physical or geographical, religious and tometic, and social structuring. The physical or geographical structuring of the Aboriginal society consisted of a tribe or language group of about 500 people with bands of approximately 20 people each. While the bands joined together daily for hunting and food gathering, every band is known as a horde consisting of several families. From a religious perspective, the Australian society is mainly divided into two moieties that may be based on Ancestral Beings from the Creation Period. Through the kinship system, the social structuring allows every individual in the Aboriginal society to be named in relation to each other. As a result, Aborigines have to name a person in relation to themselves when they accept an outsider into their society.
Major Changes in Aboriginal Society:
Broome (1994), states that the Aborigines were historically a costal people who were extremely effective hunters and gatherers. While the devastating impact of British colonization has been well documented, the extent with which traditional Aboriginal life survives intact is difficult to know. The effect of the forces of white colonization differs significantly from group to group including the Aborigines society. White colonization has contributed to numerous major changes in the Aboriginal identity, culture, and society. Some of the major changes that took place in the Aboriginal society, culture, and identity includes & #8230;
Dispossession of Traditional Lands:
One of the major changes that have occurred in the Aboriginal society and culture is the dispossession of the traditional lands of Aboriginal individuals and language groups ("Aspects of Traditional Aboriginal Australia," n.d.). Prior and at the beginning of 1788, the Aboriginal people were the sole occupants of Australia because they are the world's first people. However, white colonization from 1788 contributed to the end of the sole occupation of this people in Australia. Due to white colonization, the Aboriginal people who had settled in the continent for around 30,000 years found their land being yanked away from them.
Since the white settlers made minimal effort to justify what they were doing, they sometimes used violent processes in taking away the land of the Aboriginal people. In cases where they justified or explained their actions, white settlers stated that Australia was an empty continent. They also said that Aborigines did not own land and that whites had superior culture that needed to spread across uncivilized peoples ("Aboriginal Traditional Society," 2012).
As the white settlers began to dominate the Australian society, the Aboriginal life was quickly branded as primitive. The features of the society were soon described as hostile or quaint as these people were merely condemned as individuals of boomerangs and spears. While the traditional Aboriginal society was unchanging since the ancient times, the effect of white invasion and settlement brought change on an unexpected scale. As white settlement took place, the traditional Aboriginal society was broken down rapidly, especially in coastal districts. The breaking of the traditional Aboriginal society contributed to the emergence of new and different lifestyles for the Aboriginal people. The new lifestyles were mainly brought by the considerable diversity in terms of culture and language because of white invasion and settlement.
Emergence of Diseases:
As white settlers invaded the Australian society, there were several conflicts between the settlers and Aboriginal people. The increased settlement by the whites and conflicts contributed to the emergence of diseases and alcohol. As a result of the diseases, the Aboriginal population was reduced significantly in the first hundred years of settlement. The need for changes in policy was brought by the increasing awareness of the overall mistreatment of Aboriginal people, decrease in the Aboriginal population, and need for more effective regulation of labor in pastoral sectors ("Aboriginal Societies," n.d.).
The major change that has taken place in the Aboriginal society, identity, and culture in the recent years is the enactment of new policies. In the past few years, Commonwealth's policy has been based on the essential right of Aboriginals to maintain their racial identity or traditional lifestyle. The policy is also geared towards making the partial or total adoption of a European lifestyle by Aboriginals optional or where desired. The policy has also encouraged the control or participation of Aboriginal people in the local and community government and other necessary areas. While the policy is described as a policy of self-determination or self-management, it has been escorted by government support programs that are controlled by Aboriginal organizations.
Similar Characteristics of the Aboriginal Society:
While there are numerous changes that have occurred in the Aboriginal society, identity, and culture because of various factors, there are certain characteristics that have remained the same. These individuals have retained certain aspects of their culture and traditions as other Australians understand them and their functioning of their social…