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Before 1788, Australia consisted of only indigenous people. They lived in the islands between Australia and the Papua New Guinea. In identifying themselves the Aborigines spoke 700 different languages and had an estimated population of 750,000 people. Unfortunately only two percent (2%) of these indigenous people are remaining today due to the erosion of culture and the colonisation by the British (Poirier & Ostergren, 2002). Before the arrival of the Europeans in Australia the country was clean and unspoilt with people who had great respect to the surrounding environment and all the animals and plants without conducting overhunting on their wild animal and their soils and heritage were protected.

Land & Country

According to Yibarbuk et al., (2011) the cultures and traditions of the indigenous people of Australia were so diverse. The original people of this continent were the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They identified themselves with land, Land being a fundamental necessity to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people, the whole environment normally used to sustain these people and their culture. The indigenous Australians regarded land as spirituality important which is central to issues of great importance to them. Evidently, Australia’s indigenous people were both hunters and gatherers that is, semi-nomadism, where each clan had their own homestead in a distinct territory from where they derived their daily living necessities. The work of hunting was for men on animals like turtles and kangaroos. The children and their mothers could hunt on smaller wild animals but majorly collected fruits and plants. Along the coast people were fishermen and also collected mussel shells etc. this formed the basis of identity to these people. The mode of settlement were unique to the Aboriginals and still today they are unique thus acting as an identity to these people (Barbour & Schlesinger, 2012).

Tom Dystra an Aborigine, states that the way the Aboriginal cultivated their land was unique identification during those days. Therefore, differentiating them from the way the white man prepared his land, where the Aborigines aimed to live together with their land but the whites intended to live it off after sometime of using it. Finding sources of water, food, edible plants and also tracking of animals was also a basis of identity (Rigney, 2001). As a way of maintaining the environment and the seasonality of the land, people used to relocate their place of living time to time. The land of the indigenous people in Australia was divided based on traditional lands by the geographical boundaries like lakes and the mountains, which was passed down by elders to young people (Poirier & Ostergren, 2002). Also no fences existed in the land of Aborigines and also no clear land demarcation and this view made the Europeans to conclude that no Aborigines owned any piece of land. This therefore formed the basis of identifying the ancient people of Australia before the Europeans came in to change and intermarriages that resulted into half castes in Australia.

The diversity of the Aborigines people was identified via their land and their relationship to the language they spoke. This was expressed during ceremonies, arts and sports. The culture of the Aborigines is passed from generation to generation. In Australia there were over 600 different clans or nations just before the Europeans arrived. The territories of Australia consisted of lush areas, woodland and other areas of the country were desert. The country also had a system of kinship which was unique for specific people in different clans (Moreton-Robinson, A. (2003).

The technology and adaptation of the Aborigines was also unique to this country in that, the tools and the implements reflected the geographical location that different group came from. For instance, those indigenous people coming from the coastal region or the coastal tribe were known of using fishbone at the tips of their fighting and hunting weapons as in the coast region majorly was fishing activity thus could collect fish shells which were later used to make weapons. Whereas the desert people of Aborigines used the available tools that were made from stones. The Aboriginal’s were well known of using the stone technology, they were the first known to introduce the ground edges on the cutting and seed grinding tools, the technology acts as a clear identity of the Indigenous country of Australia, however it is after the European colonization, that the Aboriginal people discovered the merit of combining metals and ceramics in their tools which made work more easier (Yibarbuk et al., 2011)

The performance industry in the country was greatly upheld with great importance, songs and dances were very importance as they formed the educational basis in Australia. Songs existed for every different occasion and sought preserve the identity of indigenous Australians. In order to identify themselves in different occasions, there were specific songs for doing so. There were also songs that were used to indicate love for their own families and their kin and this made them to perform songs on a daily basis depending with what was expected on that particular day and this could serve as an identification to that particular community (Rigney, 2001).

With regard to the indigenous country of Australia, visual art was at the heart of this country’s decoration. With the discovery of ‘dot’ decorations by the indigenous men, who came from the western desert of mid Australia it was possible for Aborigines to dot their face using unique colours that were meant for different purposes and occasions. There were more women involved in creative art as compared to men. The cultural reports indicated that over quarter of the Australian indigenous were directly involved in creative art. With the coming of the European colonizers, changes were expected in the ways of life of these people, it was now clear that most of the things were to change especially on the cultural heritage of the Aboriginal, by taking away members of the family, The members were later not able to identify themselves as either Aborigines or westernized since even half castes were born out them (Paradies& Cunningham, 2009).

Stolen generation

According to Krieken, (2011) when colonizers arrived in Australia in the late 1788 things changed from the word go. From freedom of free stay to ownership rights of the clan’s property. The stolen generation normally consist of thousands of Aborigines whom were taken away from their parents in the ancestral land when they were young. And the kids were raised by non- Aboriginals guardians or elsewhere in an institution or homes. According to Moreton-Robinson (2010), the older of the members of the stolen generation became leaders in both national and state of Aboriginal organizations like Archie Roach who is an experienced member of creative art industry who was one of the stolen generation members. Nevertheless, majority of these people were normally treated unfairly.

By 1920’s in every three kids one was being removed from their family, and between 1788 to1988 there were more than 50,000 people of the stolen generation (Read, 2006). This means that every family had lost at least a member of their family by the end of World War II. Once, one was taken away and brought up in a government institution for instance a woman, then got married to a British man she was ashamed of revealing her identity to the husband or even to the children that she was originally an Aborigine. This brought about a major identity crisis more so when the lady dies and all her descendants cannot get access to their birth rights in Australia because they were not identified as natives nor Aboriginals. Also a lot ignorance is expected among the stolen generations as they don’t understand nor comprehend their origin (Broome, (1991).

According to Robert (1993) there were some homes where the stolen generation lived like the Bungalow at Alice spring that offered terrible foods and hygiene and also no access to education. But the stolen generations became closer to the missionaries during the time of colonisation than their own families and this greatly affected their identity. Thus, he said that it was their families to look after them but not them to look after their families. The stolen generations are up to date looking for professional agency like LINK-UP to help them locate their homes as a way of identifying themselves with their original ancestors (Link- up (QLD) 1991). In 1980,s Corol Edward shot a film named, ‘it’s long Road Back’ under the film she had brought together women who grew at Cootamundra girls home which was one of the stolen generation’s home to discuss their experiences. These women said that the separation was due to the Aboriginal individuals and policies that had contributed them to losing their identity and also losing their roots back at home in Australia (Seidel, 2004).


Evidently from existing literature on the identity of indigenous Australians land, country and stolen generations greatly affected the identity of these group of people. The original inhabitant of Australia were the Aborigines who existed as community until the arrival of the Europeans who disrupted their culture and ways of living. The land of the Australian indigenous people was protected and the inhabitant were mainly hunters and gatherers, these people also regarded their heritage and valued it. Tom Dystra in his work asserts that ‘land cultivation among the Aborigines was unique’ this provides clear reflection on the indigenous people of Australian over the land use. The people of Australia were settled into clans and land had no boundaries. The country was also identified it unique ways of heritage and cultural balance and thus, the Aborigines valued their cultural heritage, this is in line with the reality as expressed in the article ‘The Australian Aborigine studies/ one’ where the aborigine indigenous people spoke unique languages and sang songs according to the occasion to represent and honour their land and country. Further, the rise of the European colonizers led to the birth of the stolen generation that involved those people who were taken away from the Aborigines in Australia. With establishment of a stolen generation it was meant to break down the social structure of the Aborigines, this was specifically to aid in colonizing and stealing their land as they assumed by doing so it will be possible to rule them forever. While reflecting on the stolen generation, Kath Walker one of the members of stolen generation and a renowned poet, said that ‘ I am a black among the white, proud of the race and skin’ this is clear that the stolen generation have identity of the mother country of the indigenous Australian Aborigine people

In conclusion, this three factors greatly shaped and affected the identity of indigenous Australians to date and that why the arts and culture in Australia strives tireless to correct this wrongs and enable these group of people to enjoy their freedom and birth rights without any hindrances.


Barbour, W., & Schlesinger, C. (2012). Who’s the boss? Post‐colonialism, ecological research and conservation management on Australian Indigenous lands. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 36-41.

Broome, R. (1991). Shall we call a Koori a Koori? Australian Historical Association and stolen generation mind, Bulletin 68.

Ens, E. J., Finlayson, M., Preuss, K., Jackson, S., & Holcombe, S. (2012). Australian approaches for managing ‘country’using Indigenous and non‐Indigenous knowledge. Ecological Management&Restoration,13(1)100-107.

Hagar Robert in P and J. (1993). Along Time olden Time: Aboriginal Accounts of Northern Territory History, CD Rom, and Penrith

Krieken, R. (2011). The barbarism of civilization: cultural and the ‘stolen generations’1. The British journal of sociology, 50(2), 297-315.

Link- up (QLD) (1991). Aboriginal corporation ‘link –up, (nd), Brisbane

Moreton-Robinson, A. (2003). I still call Australia home: Indigenous belonging and place in a white postcolonizing society. Uprootings/regroundings: Questions of home and migration, 23-40.

Paradies, Y., & Cunningham, J. (2009). Experiences of racism among urban Indigenous Australians: Findings from the DRUID study. Ethnic and racial studies, 32(3), 548-573.

Peter Seidel, (2004). ‘The struggle for justice for the Yorta Yorta Nation’ Native Tittle. Vol 29(2).;dn=200405176;res=IELAPA

Poirier, R., & Ostergren, D. (2002). Evicting people from nature: Indigenous land rights and national parks in Australia, Russia, and the United States. Nat. Resources J., 42, 331.

Read, P. (2006). The stolen generations: the removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969. New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Rigney, L. I. (2001). A first perspective of Indigenous Australian participation in science: Framing Indigenous research towards Indigenous Australian intellectual sovereignty.

Yibarbuk, D., Whitehead, P. J., Russell‐Smith, J., Jackson, D., Godjuwa, C., Fisher, A., & Bowman, D. M. J. S. (2011). Fire ecology and Aboriginal land management in central Arnhem Land, northern Australia: a tradition of ecosystem management. Journal of Biogeography, 28(3), 325-343.