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Culture and History in Australia

Overview

Formulating Australia’s rich and diverse culture is a history of convicts, pioneers, indigenous aboriginals, and Torres Straight Islanders, coupled with a more recent influx of worldwide immigrants. This nation has been built upon a self-reliant, authoritatively rebellious, adventure seeking, and indigenously rooted people. Australians are stereotypically thought of as a sport crazed, crocodile wrestling, beer drinking blokes, and although some of these labels have real roots, the culture is immensely more multi-dimensional then this caricature allows.

The exceptionality of Australia’s population, landscape, and climate, along with the nation’s sophisticated cities, cultural richness, and relaxed, “No worries, Mate” attitude, create a culture just as unique to Australia as its native wildlife.

 

The Aborigines
 
Aboriginal spirituality entails a close relationship between humans and the land. Aborigines call the beginning of the world the "Dreaming," or "Dreamtime." In the "Dreamtime," aboriginal "Ancestors" rose from below the earth to form various parts of nature including animal species, bodies of water, and the sky.
 
Unlike other religions, however, aboriginal belief does not place the human species apart from or on a higher level than nature. Aborigines believe some of the Ancestors metamorphosed into nature (as in rock formations or rivers), where they remain spiritually alive.

The oral tradition of storytelling informs aboriginals' vibrant cultural life. Songs illustrate the Dreamtime and other tales of the land, while dances and diagrams drawn in the sand accompany oral tales.


In the Northern Territory, aboriginal art includes sculpture, bark and rock paintings, and baskets and beadwork. Rock carvings and paintings can be found in such places as Arnhem Land, Ubirr, and Nourlangie. Many aborigines earn a living through selling native artworks.


Aboriginal music is often recognizable for its most famous instrument, the didgeridoo. A wind instrument typically made from bamboo, it extends about five feet and produces a low, vibrating hum. Aborigines use didgeridoos in formal ceremonies at such events as sunsets, circumcisions, and funerals.