Australia’s early history
Australia’s Aboriginal people have the oldest continuous culture on Earth. They are believed to have arrived here by boat at least 50,000 years ago.
At the time of European settlement there were up to one million Aboriginal people living across the continent as hunters and gatherers. They were scattered in 500 different clans, or ‘nations’, speaking about 700 languages. Each clan had a spiritual connection with their land, but travelled widely to trade and find water and seasonal produce, as well as for ritual gatherings.
Despite the diversity of their homelands – from outback deserts to tropical rainforest and snow-capped mountains – all Aboriginal people share the belief in the Dreaming, or ‘Tjukurrpa’. According to Aboriginal myth, the ancestor spirits forged all aspects of life and continue to link the past, present, the people and the land. Dreaming stories describe the journeys of spiritual ancestors and are told through song, dance, painting and storytelling.
There are many opportunities to explore Australia’s Indigenous culture, significantly in northern Australia. Take a tour through the world-famous Kakadu National Park, which is home to more than 5,000 sites of rock art dating back 20,000 years. Or join a Dreamtime walk, guided by the Kuku Yalanji people, through the lush rainforests of Mossman Gorge, 80 kilometres north of Cairns.