Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines (icon), also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 ab originem (from the origin), are people who are indigenous
Indigenous means: belonging to a certain place.Indigenous may refer to:In Ecology and Geography*Indigenous resources, resources which exist within local geography, that are not imported...

 to most of the Australian continent
Australia (continent)
Australia is the world's smallest continent, comprising the mainland of Australia and proximate islands including Tasmania, New Guinea, the Aru Islands and Raja Ampat Islands...

that is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania. Since 1995 the Australian Aboriginal Flag
Australian Aboriginal Flag
The Australian Aboriginal Flag is a flag that represents Indigenous Australians. It is one of the official "Flags of Australia", and holds special legal and political status, but it is not the "Australian National Flag"...

 (right), designed in 1971 by the Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas
Harold Thomas
Harold Joseph Thomas is an Indigenous Australian descended from the Luritja people of Central Australia. An artist and land rights activist, he is best known for designing and copyrighting the Australian Aboriginal Flag....

, has been one of the official "Flags of Australia" under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953
Flags Act 1953
The Flags Act 1953 is an act of the Parliament of Australia which defines the official Flag of Australia. Queen Elizabeth II gave Royal Assent on 14 February 1954 after opening the Commonwealth Parliament during her 1954 Royal Tour...


Legal and administrative definitions

The category "Australian Aborigines"sometimes "Australian Aboriginals" or "Aboriginal Australians" or, more usually within Australia, simply "Aborigines"is not itself indigenous, but is a classification invented by and for the purposes of the British colonisers after the beginning of colonisation in 1788. Until the 1980s, the legal and administrative criterion for inclusion in this category was solely biological, following biologically based conceptions of "race".
In the era of colonial and post-colonial government, access to basic human rights depended upon your race. If you were a "full blooded Aboriginal native ... [or] any person apparently having an admixture of Aboriginal blood", a half-caste being the "offspring of an Aboriginal mother and other than Aboriginal father" (but not of an Aboriginal father and other than Aboriginal mother), a "quadroon
Quadroon, and the associated words octoroon and quintroon are terms that, historically, were applied to define the ancestry of people of mixed-race, generally of African and Caucasian ancestry, but also, within Australia, to those of Aboriginal and Caucasian ancestry...

", or had a "strain" of Aboriginal blood you were forced to live on Reserves or Missions, work for rations, given minimal education, and needed governmental approval to marry, visit relatives or use electrical appliances.

This was assumed in the two references to Aborigines that used to exist in the Constitution of Australia
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

. Section 51(xxvi)
Section 51(xi) of the Australian Constitution
Section 51 of the Australian Constitution is the subsection of Section 51 of the Australian Constitution granting the Commonwealth the power to make laws on "census and statistics".- Historical Context to the inclusion of the Census Power :...

 gave the Commonwealth parliament power to legislate with respect to "the people of any race", but excluding "the aboriginal race" within any state, which would remain subject solely to the legislation of the particular state. Section 127 provided that "aboriginal natives shall not be counted" in any census of population. Both of these references were removed by referendum in 1967
Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals)
The referendum of 27 May 1967 approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration 1967, which became law on 10 August 1967 following the results of the referendum...

. The overall result was that "Aborigines" are no longer mentioned by name in the Australian Constitution. However, there have been a number of calls for an alteration to be made to the constitution to specifically mention Indigenous Australians.

The result of the change to Section 51(xxvi), however, was that the Commonwealth parliament acquired power to legislate with respect to Aborigines as a "race". In the Tasmanian Dam Case
Commonwealth v Tasmania
Commonwealth v Tasmania 158 CLR 1, was a significant Australian court case, decided in the High Court of Australia on 1 July 1983. The case was a landmark decision in Australian constitutional law, and was a significant moment in the history of conservation in Australia...

 of 1983, the High Court of Australia
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

 was asked to determine whether Commonwealth legislation whose application could relate to Aboriginesparts of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983 (Cth) as well as related legislationwas supported by Section 51(xxvi) in its new form. The case concerned an application of that legislation that would preserve cultural heritage of Tasmanian Aborigines. It was held that Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, together or separately, and any part of either, could be regarded as a "race" for this purpose. As to the criteria for identifying a person as a member of such a "race", the definition by Justice Deane
William Deane
Sir William Patrick Deane, AC, KBE, QC , Australian judge and the 22nd Governor-General of Australia.-Early life:William Deane was born in Melbourne, Victoria. He was educated at Catholic schools including St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill and at the University of Sydney, where he graduated in...

 has become accepted as current law. Deane J said:
It is unnecessary, for the purposes of the present case, to consider the meaning to be given to the phrase "people of any race" in s. 51(xxvi). Plainly, the words have a wide and non-technical meaning [...]. The phrase is, in my view, apposite to refer to all Australian Aboriginals collectively. Any doubt, which might otherwise exist in that regard, is removed by reference to the wording of par. (xxvi) in its original form. The phrase is also apposite to refer to any identifiable racial sub-group among Australian Aboriginals. By "Australian Aboriginal" I mean, in accordance with what I understand to be the conventional meaning of that term, a person of Aboriginal descent, albeit mixed, who identifies himself as such and who is recognized by the Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal.

While Deane's three-part definition reaches beyond the biological criterion, it has been criticised as continuing to accept the biological criterion as primary. It has been found difficult to apply, both in each of its parts and as to the relations among the parts; biological "descent" has been a fall-back criterion.

Definitions from Australian Aborigines

Eve Fesl, a Gabi Gabi woman, wrote in the Aboriginal Law Bulletin describing how she and other Australian Aborigines preferred to be identified:
While the term 'indigenous' is being more commonly used by Australian Government and non-Government organizations to describe Aboriginal Australians, Lowitja O'Donoghue
Lowitja O'Donoghue
Ms Lowitja "Lois" O'Donoghue, AC, CBE, DSG is an Aboriginal Australian retired public administrator.She was named Australian of the Year in 1984 and 1990, and was inaugural chairperson of the now dissolved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission .-Personal life:Lowitja O'Donoghue was the...

Order of Australia
The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

, CBE, commenting on the prospect of possible amendments to Australia's constitution
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

, was reported as saying:
O'Donoghue went on to say that the term indigenous robbed the traditional owners of Australia of an identity because some non-Aboriginal people now wanted to refer to themselves as indigenous because they were born there.

Definitions from academia

Dean of Indigenous Research and Education at Charles Darwin University
Charles Darwin University
Charles Darwin University is an Australian public university with about 20,000 students in 2007.The University offers a wide range of Higher Education degrees and Vocational Education and Training courses with flexible study options, including part-time, external and online.CDU has campuses in the...

, Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik, has publicly lectured on the ways Australian Aborigines have been categorised and labelled over time. Her lecture offered a new perspective on the terms urban, traditional and of Indigenous descent as used to define and categorise Aboriginal Australians. She said:
She called for a replacement of this terminology by that of "Aborigine" or "Torres Strait Islander" - "irrespective of hue".


The origin of Aboriginal peoples in Australia has been the subject of intense speculation since the nineteenth century. Until recently, no theory of migration has gained wide acceptance, and genetic studies have shown the Aborigines to be isolated from other racial groups. Some scholars have proposed theories of kinship with groups in South Asia, whereas others have proposed a more direct migration from Africa only passing through South Asia. A 2009 genetic study in India found similarities among Indian archaic populations and Aborigines of Australia, indicating a Southern migration route, with expanding populations from Southeast Asia migrating to Indonesia and Australia.

In a genetic study in 2011, researchers found evidence from the DNA of Aboriginal hair strands that the Aboriginal population split off from the European and Asian population between 62,000 and 75,000 years ago, roughly 24,000 years before the European and Asian populations became differentiated. The earliest human explorers kept migrating into South Asia and then into Australia, making the Aborigines the oldest continuous population outside Africa, the people who have longest occupied their traditional territory. The results imply that modern Aborigines are the direct descendants of the explorers who arrived 50,000 years ago. This finding supports earlier archaeological findings of human remains near Lake Mungo
Lake Mungo
Lake Mungo is a dry lake in south-western New South Wales, Australia. It is located about 760 km due west of Sydney and 90 km north-east of Mildura. The lake is the central feature of Mungo National Park, and is one of seventeen lakes in the World Heritage listed Willandra Lakes Region...

 that were dated to 45,000 years ago. Another 2011 genetic study showed varying levels of Denisovan admixture in Aboriginal populations, apparently from human and archaic populations that interbred in central Africa before the migration.

Groups of Aborigines

Dispersing on the continent of Australia, over time the ancient peoples expanded and developed distinctions in languages and cultures. Four hundred and more distinct Australian Aboriginal peoples have been identified across the continent, each distinguished by unique names for groups of people's ancestral
An ancestor is a parent or the parent of an ancestor ....

 languages, dialects, or distinctive speech mannerisms.

Other names used by Australian Aboriginal people

There are a number of other names from Australian Aboriginal languages
Australian Aboriginal languages
The Australian Aboriginal languages comprise several language families and isolates native to the Australian Aborigines of Australia and a few nearby islands, but by convention excluding the languages of Tasmania and the Torres Strait Islanders...

 commonly used to identify groups based on geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

, including:
  • Bama in north-east Queensland
  • Koori
    The Koori are the indigenous Australians that traditionally occupied modern day New South Wales and Victoria....

     (or Koorie or Goori or Goorie) in New South Wales
    New South Wales
    New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

     and Victoria
    Victoria (Australia)
    Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

  • Murri in southern Queensland
    Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

  • Noongar
    The Noongar are an indigenous Australian people who live in the south-west corner of Western Australia from Geraldton on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast...

     in southern Western Australia
    Western Australia
    Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

  • Nunga
    Nunga is a term of self-reference for many of the Aboriginal peoples of southern South Australia.-Other names used by Australian Aboriginal people:There are a number of names from Aboriginal languages commonly used to identify groups based on geography:...

     in southern South Australia
    South Australia
    South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

  • Anangu
    Anangu, more accurately "Aṉaŋu" or "Arnangu" is a word found in a number of eastern varieties of the Western Desert Language , an Australian Aboriginal language of the Pama–Nyungan family, spoken in the desert regions of western and central Australia. Before the arrival of non-Aboriginal people in...

     in northern South Australia, and neighbouring parts of Western Australia and Northern Territory
    Northern Territory
    The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

  • Palawah
    Palawah or Pallawah is a term of self-reference for Tasmanian Aborigines.-Other names used by Australian Aboriginal people:There are a number of names from Aboriginal languages commonly used to identify groups based on geography:...

     (or Pallawah) in Tasmania.

See also

  • First Nation
  • Tasmanian Aborigines
    Tasmanian Aborigines
    The Tasmanian Aborigines were the indigenous people of the island state of Tasmania, Australia. Before British colonisation in 1803, there were an estimated 3,000–15,000 Parlevar. A number of historians point to introduced disease as the major cause of the destruction of the full-blooded...

  • History of Indigenous Australians
    History of Indigenous Australians
    The history of Indigenous Australians is thought to have spanned 40 000 to 45 000 years, although some estimates have put the figure at up to 80 000 years before European settlement...

  • Indigenous Australian music
    Indigenous Australian music
    Australian indigenous music includes the music of Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, who are collectively called Indigenous Australians; it incorporates a variety of distinctive traditional music styles practiced by Indigenous Australian peoples, as well as a range of contemporary...

  • National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
    National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
    The National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award is one of the most prestigious art awards in Australia. Established in 1984 by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and awarded annually, it is sponsored by Telstra, so is commonly known as the Telstra Award.Prize-winners...

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