46 Virtual Field Trip: Australian Aboriginal Culture, Art, History, Music

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Virtual Field Trip: Australian Aboriginal Culture, Art, History, Music

Australia has always had a mix of cultures and people although not in the same way as it does today.

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A photograph of The Seven Peace Keepers A photograph of Glen Namundja painting. Primitive drawing of a kangaroo Man in aboriginal dress playing a didgeridoo

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have changed and developed over time. However, European colonisation of Australia brought very rapid changes to Aboriginal society and dramatically affected Aboriginal land and the ways people lived. Australia has always had a mix of cultures and people although not in the same way as it does today.

Before 1788 Australia was populated only by the Indigenous people of Australia – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. In 1788 Aboriginal people inhabited the whole of Australia and Torres Strait Islanders lived on the islands between Australian and Papua New Guinea, in what is now called the Torres Strait. There were many different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities made up of people who spoke different languages with various cultural beliefs, practices and traditions.

Before 1788 there were approximately 700 languages spoken throughout Australia with an estimated population of 750 000 people. Today Indigenous people make up 2% of the entire Australian population (about 410 000 people). The number of Aboriginal people has changed since European settlement because of the effects of removal of people from traditional lands and the impact of cities and towns on populations…

Australia today is a much different place from when the First Fleet arrived in 1788 with convicts and marines. Just as in the past, Indigenous Australians live throughout Australia but now this includes cities, towns, the coast, rural areas and the outback. There is no one Indigenous culture but a mixture of contemporary and traditional thoughts, ways and practices.

Introduction to Indigenous Australia, Australian Museum

Your Field Guide

Start Here

Use the suggested websites to get a broad view of your desitnation, or select anotherscholarly resource to get started:

Each of the videos has a caption at the beginning: “May contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” This respects Indigenous community cultural protocols related to deceased persons. For more information, see: Indigenous Cultural Protocols

Be sure to check out the “Education Notes” for each of the videos; they contain great background information!

  • Creative Spirits: Get Aboriginal Culture Without Agenda “I think anybody who does a course on Aboriginal culture just sees Australia so differently. It’s very enlightening and gives another dimension to being Australian. —Anna Bell, coordinator Aboriginal Support Group Manly Warringah Pittwater

Choose a Topic and Explore More Deeply

Choose one of the topics from the list below and folow the suggested websites, or select your own scholarly resources.

History and Culture

  • Website: Koori History
  • Website: The AIATSIS map of Aboriginal Australia The Aboriginal Language Map attempts to represent all of the language or tribal or nation groups of Indigenous people of Australia. It indicates general locations of larger groupings of people which may include smaller groups such as clans, dialects or individual languages in a group.


  • Article: Treaty by Yothu Yindi – a Trojan horse in the culture wars The Yolngu song never quite achieved what it set out to in the lifetime of its author, but it gave reconciliation in Australia an anthem
  • Webpage: Yothu Yindi Band biography. “They took the ancient song cycles of north-east Arnhem Land – featuring such traditional instruments as the bilma (ironwood clapsticks) and yidaki (didgeridoo or hollow log) – and juxtaposed them with western pop sounds to present a true musical meeting of two diverse cultures. They took traditional Yolngu dance performances – describing the behavior of crocodiles, wallabies, brolga and other fauna of their homelands – and worked them into the context of contemporary performance. The result is a band that’s been hailed as “the most powerful blend of indigenous and modern music to emerge from the world music scene”.
  • Article: Read the Lyrics of Yothu Yindi Yothu Yindi were best known for the song ‘Treaty” about the Hawke government’s broken promise to Indigenous people. Here are the lyrics, with translations.

Rituals and Rites of Passage



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