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Aboriginal Society Pre Settlement Essay

1722 words - 7 pages

Historians prefer to believe that Aboriginals came to Australia from South East Asia (Broome, 1974:9). It is certain that Aborigines have been here for more than 50,000 years and Broome (1994:10) believes that this may be increased to 120,000 years, either way there is no doubt Australian Aborigines were the original inhabitants of a previously uninhabited continent. Early anthropologists saw Aboriginal religion as the simplest least developed most infantile form of human consciousness (Charlesworth, 1989:1). Aboriginal myths and rites were placed into the category of magic but this was the view of aboriginal society through western eyes, and no connection between Christian gospels and the ...view middle of the document...

Hiatt (1987:177) argued that Aboriginal political life was characterized by a uniform distribution of rights, privileges, and duties throughout a social order based on kinship and suffused by an egalitarian ideology. Aboriginal conceptions of correct behaviour have a basis in the cosmological and metaphysical speculations that have come to be known as the Dreaming. The existence of a supernaturally sanctioned moral code does not imply the non-existence of government authority; indeed as Hiatt (1987:177) argued there were numerous instances where the two flourish side by side.In short Aboriginal religious beliefs in existence before settlements were not so explicit and unequivocal, nor sanctions so unerring, as to constitute a complete set of instructions automatically followed by all (Hiatt, 1987:177). Dreamtime formulations manifested a deep concern with understanding what man is, rather than prescribing how he ought to behave. If as Hiatt (1987:177) argued Traditional Aboriginal society truly lacked government, the reason is unlikely to be found in the content of traditional religion.The Aboriginal population was widely dispersed throughout Australia; desert regions carried smaller populations who were able to survive a comfortable existence in what was available within the harsh environment. Along the more fertile regions the population increased as the land was capable of carrying more people in a smaller space. Clarke (1992: 4) argues that the balance between population and the capacity of tribal territory to support this population appears to have been carefully preserved.The exact time at which the rigid tribal territories became established is unclear, however as Clarke (1992:5) points out no Aborigines actually owned land in the European sense. Aboriginal people existed upon and were responsible for maintaining tribal lands. As Aboriginal culture was non-expansionist Clarke (1992:5) argues that the territory of one tribe had no significance or any meaning to Aboriginal people in adjoining areas and tribes. This does not mean that conflict over territory did not occur, but rather as Clarke (1992:6) believes that traditional Aboriginal society was introverted, peaceful and in possession of a healthy respect for custom and familiar ways.It is interesting that within tribal territories several small groups or clans could exist. These clans Clarke (1992:6) believes periodically came together as a unit for the purposes of trade, marriages and religious ceremonies. All members of a tribe were either close or distant relatives, thus the very harshly adhered to marriage laws existed in an attempt to prevent inbreeding.With the sketchy information about traditional Aboriginal life, it is difficult to identify legal rules. This task is made even more difficult with local and regional variations. The Australian Law Reform Commission (1987:195) believes however that there were some rules of fairly common application. Some offenses were breaches of...

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