ABORIGINES - The First Explorers
Around Australia, Aboriginal culture was based on a unique relationship with the land. Though different areas were 'owned' by different groups, the land was not farmed to create surplus resources and support complex power structures. The most valued commodity in Aboriginal society was spiritual knowledge, which was acquired progressively as a person aged. This spiritual knowledge was based around the land.
|When Europeans first touched on the coast of the continent, Australia had already been occupied for thousands of years. It had already been explored, because the ancestors of Aboriginal people came from elsewhere, probably south-east Asia, at least 50,000 years before.|
These people progressively adapted their hunter-gatherer way of life to all the different environments of the continent - from the tropical north to Tasmania and including the harsh inland of Australia.
It is not known how long the Torres Strait Islanders have occupied their islands between Cape York and the coast of Papua New Guinea, but they were there when the Spanish Torres expedition sailed through the strait in 1606.
Around the time Captain Cook landed at Botany Bay in 1770, Aboriginal Australia was a network of localities, stretching across the entire continent. Spiritual knowledge was local, technology was local, adapted to the immediate environment. Many languages were spoken - about 250 - and many more dialects.
An observation by Cook in his journal (1968-71) provides an insight into the different values of Aboriginal society at the time.
'... they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the Superfluous but with the necessary Conveniences so much sought after in Europe; they are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in a Tranquility which is not disturbed by the Inequality of Condition. The Earth and Sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life.'
As the first explorers of the Australian continent, the Aboriginals left a lasting legacy to their descendants in the form of rich cultural tradition, inextricably interwoven with the very land in which they lived.
Source: Certificate accompanying the 1993 Masterpieces in Silver - The Explorers - Set.
Aborigines are featured on the following Australian coins:
1988 to Present Two Dollars
1993 Five Dollars
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Last modified: 05 December, 2007