The native inhabitants of Australia, properly known as Aboriginal Australians note The peoples who lived on that continent for thousands of years before British invasion. 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 Aboriginals 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 Aboriginals are a well-known fixture of the world's perspective of Australia.
A brief history
Australian Aboriginals 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 Aboriginals getting fucked over", when confronted with the fact Aboriginals have been disregarded, feared, and generally treated with hostility by European colonists. The popular European conception of Aboriginals 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, Aboriginals 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, the government policy towards them was, effectively, genocide up to the 1960s (see the Stolen Generations). In 1967, a Constitutional amendment meant Aboriginals were no longer considered native wildlife and Aboriginal activists became increasingly associated with the 'Black Power' movement in the United States of America. One activist, Charles Perkins, was even dubbed 'Australia's Martin Luther King' by a US commentator. Aboriginals 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. Aboriginals have, on average, a life expectancy twenty years shorter than that of the many other races 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 do so) meant to indicate a change in national policy towards Aboriginals. Since then there has been a concentrated effort in regards to racism (notably centered on former AFL player and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes) as well as varying degrees of acceptance from both races, however 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 Aboriginals living 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 Aboriginals on the continent (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. Aboriginals 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 Aboriginals 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 Aboriginal 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 Aboriginals, although how nuanced, balanced or fair it is (especially in relation to the colonists and immigrants) is up to the reader.
- The Tracker, a somewhat strange and surreal Western-style film, is considered a major turning point in the portrayal of Australian Aboriginals and white perceptions of them. There's been debate on exactly what it means.
- The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith
- Walkabout, in which two white children stranded in the outback are saved by an Aboriginal boy
- Crocodile Dundee
- Rabbit-Proof Fence: Very loosely based on a true story.
- The Sapphires: the titular group are four Aboriginal women who form a soul group and sing for the American troops in Vietnam. Issues like the Stolen Generations (one of the girls was fairer than the others and was removed to Melbourne when she was a child) and racism (the girls lose a contest they should have won because the people holding it give the prize to an inferior singer) come up over the course of the film.
- Mabo: A made-for-tv film about Eddie Mabo, the Torres Strait Islander who spearheaded a successful campaign and court battle for Aboriginal land rights.
- Quigley Down Under: The villain is an obvious bigot who hates them. (But he does give a Freudian Excuse.)
- The Proposition
- The Right Stuff
- Otherland includes a few, most notably Dread.
- The hero of the Bony mystery series is a half-Aboriginal police detective. Aboriginals and tribal culture feature strongly in several books.
- Dark Heavens: Uluru's human form is that of an elderly Aboriginal woman.
- 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.
- As one could expect several Blue Heelers episodes centered on the treatment of the Original Australians such as the collection of artifacts from exhumed aboriginals or the Stolen Generation. They very much try and keep an even keel and treat the matters with the gravity it deserves from all sides involved.
- Cleverman is a science fiction series based in Indigenous Australian mythology and featuring a predominantly Aboriginal cast and crew.
- Old World of Darkness:
- Mage: The Ascension: Up until the recent past, Aboriginals 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 Aboriginals, including the now-extinct Bunyip werewolves. The Uktena werewolves, who arrived post-colonisation, also had Aboriginal Kinfolk.
- Wraith: The Oblivion: Australian Aboriginal 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.
- Bran Nue Dae 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 "Aboriginal Pride" theme. In 2009 it was made into a movie, with Geoffrey Rush as the white antagonist.
- 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.
- Jeffrey McWild from Virtua Fighter, a fisherman who practices the Greek fighting art Pankration. He enters the World Fighting Tournament seeking prize money in order to fund his expeditions in finding the Devil Shark. Jeffrey is, oddly, sometimes given more Jamaican traits.
- Pink Panther's Passport to Peril: Kumoken, one of the children in Camp Chilly Wa-Wa, is an Aboriginal. In the same game, Pink also visits Australia, where he meets Kumokens family and learns a lot about Aboriginal culture.
- Lands of Red and Gold is a deeply-researched work of Alternate History fiction in which prehistoric ancestors of Aboriginals 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 cartoon Country Mouse And City Mouse: when Emily and Alexander travel to Australia, they speak with an older Aboriginal 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).
The Official Australian Aboriginal Flag.