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The native inhabitants of Australia, the races and 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.
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. There is a general view in australian and among foreign travelers who communicate with white society that Aborigines have a tendency to be lazy violent drunks, unwilling to contribute to the greater community in a palatable way. 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%). It is interesting to note that the majority of Aboriginals in Australia are of mixed White and Aboriginal descent to varying degrees- excluding the more northern and central populations- leading to them being trapped between two cultures where they are rarely fully integrated into the white cities but cannot embrace a full and authentic black heritage. This leads to a precarious paralysis essential to the modern problem, where adopting white bourgeois norms(i.e. being succesful) is tantamount to cultural suicide. Aborigines in media are somewhat rare. Foreign-written portrayals of Australia tend to consider them interchangeable with the standard Magical Native American, which some Australian works are 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.
- The Tracker, a somewhat strange and surreal Western-style film, is considered a major turning point in the portrayal of Australian Aborigines and white perceptions of them. There's been debate on exactly what it means.
- The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith
- Crocodile Dundee
- Rabbit Proof Fence: Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
- From X-Men there's Gateway (an Aborigine shaman who associated with the team during their stay in Australia), and Bishop (a time-travelling former member who was revealed to be Aboriginal rather than African-American as previously assumed).
- 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).
- Modern Australian kids shows tend to feature Aboriginal kids as more-or-less average Aussie kids. 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.
- 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 "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 clientèle.
- Otherland includes a few, most notably Dread.