When you think of the people from Australia, you rarely think of Black people, and for good reason; most of the continent is white. But what if I told you that it didn’t start that way and that the first people to roam the lands of Australia were Black migrants who arrived on the continent almost 80,000 years ago. These people are known as the Australian Aboriginal peoples.
The Aboriginal Australians are indigenous peoples of the Australian mainland, as well as many of its small islands. Scientists believe they range from Asian to African descent.
Data from the 2016 Australian Census revealed that Indigenous Australians comprised just 3.3% of Australia’s population. Although small in numbers, their story is very important in understanding the history of global blackness.
Most people believe slavery is the reason Black faces have spread all across the globe, but that is just not true.
Some scientists believe the ancestors of the Aboriginals migrated from parts of South East Asia and Africa during the Pleistocene, also known as the Ice Age. Due to lower sea levels, the Aboriginals were able to live on large sections of the Australian continental shelf.
For years most scientists believed the Australian Aboriginal people largely descended from Southeast Asian countries. But in 2011, Morten Rasmussen extracted genetic DNA from an early-20th-century lock of an Aboriginal person’s hair and found although it was likely they migrated from South Asia, the modern Aboriginal Australians were the direct descendants of the eastern wave, who left Africa more than 75,000 years ago. These travelers made their way through South Asia before settling in Australia.
The findings also suggested that the Aboriginals have occupied the same territory longer than any other human population outside of Africa.
Life for the Aboriginals centers around hunting and gathering. But some scholars also believe the evidence proves they also built lives around agriculture and farming, as well as aquaculture, raising and harvesting fish.
During the early periods of Australia, there were more than 250 different Aboriginal languages with more than 800 varying dialects. Now, only about 13 traditional languages remain.
Similar to African traditions, Aboriginal culture is shared through song, dance, and art. Although Aboriginal culture may vary depending on the region, most of their beliefs are centered around Dreamtime, also referred to as The Dreaming. The Dreaming is a collective telling of the story of creation. In most regions, it refers to a spirit that created the earth and then told humans to treat the animals and the earth in a way that is respectful to the land.
Today, there are an estimated 300,000 to more than 1,000,000 Aboriginals that still occupy parts of Australia. Like Black people all over the world, life for modern Aboriginals is not easy. Due to historical trauma, Aboriginal Australians are disproportionately affected by socioeconomic disadvantages such as higher suicide rates, and inadequate access to health care and education.
Although life presents challenges for the Australian Aboriginals, they are a true testament to the resilience of Black people around the globe.