Useful Notes: Australian Aborigines
The native inhabitants of Australia
, also known as Aboriginal Australians. The peoples who lived on that continent for thousands of years before the white man came. They are the oldest surviving culture in the world, and recent DNA evidence
has it they were the first group to separate from modern humans, around 70,000 years ago. They also have an older claim to the land they currently inhabit than any other population known. Interestingly, a later group seems to have arrived from India around 4,000 years ago
Contrary to popular conception, Australian Aborigines (to use the most common term) are not the only
people to inhabit the continent before British colonisation. They are one of two main groups
known collectively as Indigenous Australians
, or First Australians
. The Australian Aborigines are a well-known fixture of the world's perspective of Australia
and, for many Australians of any race, just another feature of everyday life.
A brief history
Australian Aborigines are also often an awkward subject for Aussies, due to a long history of white-dominated government actively discriminating against them. Students studying Australian history have been known to describe it as "200 years of Aborigines getting fucked over.", when confronted with the recent evidence of Aborigines being disregarded, feared and generally treated with hostility with European colonists. The popular European conception of Aborigines tells enough of a story: Starting as noble savages
during the early years of colonisation, then shifting to uneducatable barbarians
as the colonists started wanting more land and outright supplanting them. By the time of the late 1800s where colonial power was consolidated, Aborigines were pretty much completely absent in all depictions of the Outback, including the legendary poems of Banjo Paterson
and contemporaries, and the official attitude was that they were a 'dying race' and whites could only 'smooth the deathbed pillow'.
During the 20th century, attitudes towards Australian Aborigines slowly but radically changed. Some allege that the government policy towards them was, effectively, genocide
up to the 1960s (see the Stolen Generations
). In 1967, a Constitutional amendment meant Aborigines were no longer considered native wildlife
(slight exaggeration) and Aboriginal activists became increasingly associated with the 'Black Power' movement in the United States of America as they campaigned for rights and recognition of their own. One activist, Charles Perkins, was even dubbed 'Australia's Martin Luther King' by a US commentator. An already long story short, Aborigines slowly gained many of the rights and recognition they fought for, and have become recognised as an inseparable part of Australia as a culture, a nation and a place, but many, many
problems still remain to be solved.
The situation today
Today, the subject and issues of Australian Aboriginals continue to be a difficult, sensitive and touchy issue amongst Australians, especially white ones, which still urgently needs discussion. Aborigines have on average a life expectancy twenty years shorter than that of Whites and Asians in Australia, being particularly afflicted with heart and liver problems linked to a rife alcoholism in the community. In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially gave a national apology to the Stolen Generations (mostly likely encouraged by the previous Prime Minister's well-known refusal to) meant to indicate a change in national policy towards Aborigines. Whether actions will back up the words, this page is potentially inflammatory enough without getting into that
At last count, according to government statistics, there are estimated to be about half a million Australian Aborigines in the country. This accounts for less than 3% of Australia's population. Many live in remote communities. The Northern Territory
has the biggest population of Australian Aborigines in the country (around 30%). The first indigenous leader of a state or territory, Adam Giles, became Chief Ministernote
of the Northern Territory in March of 2013. Many Australian Aboriginals are of mixed White and Aboriginal descent to varying degrees, but this is rarer in the more northern and central populations. Aborigines in media are somewhat rare, although more common than other non-White Australians.note Foreign-written portrayals of Australia
tend to consider them interchangeable with the standard Magical Native American
, which some Australian works are also prone to. Others range from the Noble Savage
take to attempts at more nuanced and realistic representations of native Australians.
It's notable to point out that most of the films mentioned star David Gulpilil
in some capacity or another.
Depictions of Australian Aborigines in fiction:
- Dark Skinned Red Head (at least in the anime), cyborgized supercop Kiddy Phenil from Silent Möbius.
- A particularly embarrassing portrayal occurs in an episode of Gigantor, where they look and act like stereotypical Native Americans. This is because in the original Japanese anime version, Tetsujin 28, they were stereotypical Native Americans, since the episode involved the cast traveling from Japan to America, but since the English version was already (ostensibly) set in America...
- Appearing in Marvel's Contest of Champions, Talisman was an Aboriginal shaman with vaguely defined magical powers. He has had only one subsequent appearance.
- From X-Men there's Gateway (an Aborigine shaman who associated with the team during their stay in Australia) and his time-travelling great-grand children, siblings Lucas Bishop (a former member who was revealed to be Aboriginal rather than African-American as previously assumed) and Dark-Skinned Blonde Shard (who was transformed into a sentient hologram after getting killed in the line of duty before getting killed for good a second time).
- Secret Warriors member Eden Fesi, an Aboriginal Reality Warper who mostly uses his powers for Thinking Up Portals. He was under the care of Gateway before being recruited by Nick Fury. More recently, he was recruited to The Avengers.
- One of the members of Global Frequency is an Australian police officer of Aboriginal descent.
- The Multiversity: The Thunderer of Earth-7 is an Aboriginal thunder god, an Alternate Company Equivalent of Thor.
- The Axis Powers Hetalia fancomic Maaf does bring up the issue of Australian Aborigines, although how nuanced, balanced or fair it is (especially in relation to the colonists and immigrants) is up to the reader.
- Otherland includes a few, most notably Dread.
- The hero of the Bony mystery series is a half-Aboriginal police detective. Aborigines and tribal culture feature strongly in several books.
- Modern Australian kids shows tend to feature Aboriginal kids as more-or-less average Aussie kids, e.g. Fiona from Round the Twist (Season 2 only), Egg from Lockie Leonard.
- The brilliant historical drama My Place features many Aboriginal main characters - the end of the first episode deals with the effect of the National Apology for the Stolen Generations on an Aboriginal girl and her family.
Season 2 covers the lives of many Aboriginal characters and families, notably including those at the time of, and before, the first colony.
- Double Trouble, a short-lived series for Australia's Disney Channel, was about identical twin Aboriginal teenage girls, one from the city and one from the country, who discover each other's existence and decide to switch identities.
- Redfern Now, a phenomenally passionate, challenging, and realistic depiction of working-class, inner-city trials with a focus on Aboriginal Australians in the suburb of Redfern.
- The Gods of Wheat Street, a 2014 ABC series revolving around a middle-class Aboriginal family in the rural NSW town of Casino.
- The 2007-2009 SBS series The Circuit followed a half-Aboriginal city lawyer who moves to the remote Kimberley region in Western Australia to work in the local circuit court.
- Old World of Darkness:
- Mage: The Ascension: Up until the recent past, Aborigines who Awakened generally joined up with the shamanistic Dreamspeakers (the other Traditions left Australia to them, feeling that whatever magical secrets Australia possessed, the Dreamspeakers had a lock on them).
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Most of Australia's Changing Breeds, having been established before colonisation, drew their human Kinfolk from the Aborigines, including the now-extinct Bunyip werewolves. The Uktena werewolves, who arrived post-colonisation, also had Aborigine Kinfolk.
- Wraith The Oblivion: Australian Aborigine wraiths reside in Karta, the Dark Kingdom of Clay, a hidden island in The Underworld. Australian wraiths of other ethnicities reside in Australia's Shadowlands, the continent's dark mirror in the Underworld.
- BranNueDae is the musical story of a boy from Broome who runs away from his school in Perth. Notable because it was written and performed almost entirely by Aboriginals, and has an "Aborigine Pride" theme. It is now a movie, with Geoffrey Rush.
- Purna, the gun-specialist of the four playable characters of Dead Island, is a former cop turned bodyguard of Koori descent. She spent over a decade clawing up ranks, the progress of which was hampered because of her ethnicity and gender, which she lost due to an altercation with a guy who could screw the rules over with his connections. She decided that being a cop in such a corrupt place isn't worth it and went to be a bodyguard despite her distaste for her clientele.
- Lands of Red and Gold is a deeply-researched work of Alternate History fiction in which prehistoric ancestors of Aborigines gradually discover various forms of agriculture and eventually form numerous developed native civilizations with very complex histories, societies and culture. They even greatly influence the Maori and later the first European colonists, once they come into contact with them.
The Official Australian Aboriginal Flag.
- The cartoon Country Mouse And City Mouse: when Emily and Alexander travel to Australia, they speak with an older Aborigine man. This is notable as he is one of the only adults the mice speak to in the entire series, considering they usually befriend children (The other adults being Santa and Mrs. Claus).