Australian Aboriginal

Any of the indigenous peoples of Australia and Tasmania that arrived 40,000–60,000 years ago.

At one time there were as many as 500 language-named, territorially anchored groups (tribes) of indigenous Australians. They subsisted as hunters and gatherers. They formed groups along the male line (patrilineal descent), and their lives were centred around a watering place settled by the group's ancestors. The men were divided into lodges and were custodians of the mythology, ritual, sites, and symbols evoked in the Dreaming. The Aboriginal population, estimated to be 300,000–1,000,000 when European colonization began in the late 18th century, was devastated by introduced diseases and by the bloody 19th-century policy of "pacification by force." In 1996 they were estimated to number about 386,000. Most aspects of their traditional culture have been severely modified. All the Aboriginal peoples have had some contact with modern Australian society, and all are now Australian citizens.

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Universalium. 2010.

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