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Settlement Guide: 7 things you should know about Australia’s First Peoples

Bawaka Homeland, East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory - First Contact - Series 2 - Source: Photograph by David Dare Parker

Indigenous Australians are people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and together they form three per cent of the national population. They are Australia’s First People, and yet most of us say we know very little about them.

Here are 7 facts you need to know about Australia’s First Peoples.

Identity is tied to the cultures a person is raised in and how they identify with that culture
Adam Goodes

One of the biggest myths about Aboriginality is that if you have fair skin you can’t be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

Read more.

Culture represents the ways of living that are built up by groups and transmitted from one generation to another
A new initiative for 'Birthing on Country' has just been launched to improve the health outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies

The essential features of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures include a special connection to the land and commitment to family and community.

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Rights of citizenship were not extended to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at Federation in 1901
Faith Bandler Referendum

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples also had no right to vote or receive social security benefits such as the pensions and maternity allowances until the late sixties.

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‘Dreaming’ or ‘Dreamtime’ are English words that describe a rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concept
Songlines On Screen film Tjawa Tjawa

For Aboriginal people ‘Dreaming’ is more than a mythical past: “It prescribes our connection as Aboriginal people with the spiritual essence of everything around us and beyond us. Dreaming stories are not in the past, they are outside of time – always present and giving meaning to all aspects of life.” – ShareOurPride

Language identifies who Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are and where they come from
Angelina Joshua hard at work at the Ngukurr Language Centre

There were around 270 different language groups and many different cultural ways at the time Europeans arrived. Today, 145 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are still spoken in Australia, however only 18 remain strong, meaning they are spoken by people of all ages.

Read more here

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected to country through lines of descent (paternal and maternal), as well as clan and language groups
Songlines 1

"When we say country we might mean homeland or tribal or clan area and in saying so we may mean something more than just a place; somewhere on the map. We are not necessarily referring to place in a geographical sense. But we are talking about the whole of the landscape, not just the places on it." – Professor Mick Dobson AM

Read more here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples established effective ways to use and sustain resources of the land
Indigenous fishing and the clash between native title and fishing laws.

The rights of different groups to live in and manage certain areas of land are clear and recorded through art, stories, songs and dance. "I have been brought up to believe that we have a special connection to the land. We belong to the land. The land does not belong to us." - Cassandra Lawton Gungarri woman (SW Qld)

Read more here.

First Contact (season 2) airs on 29 November, 30 November and 1 December 2016 at 8:30pm on SBS. Across 28 Days, six well-known Aussies take an epic journey into Aboriginal Australia. Watch the trailer here, and catch-up on episodes after the program airs via SBS On Demand here.


First Contact Season 2 - Preview