Sisters Marion (left) and

Australian Cultural history


One of the reasons they have survived for so long is their ability to adapt to change.

Culture: the total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings, which is passed on from one generation to the next.

Heritage: that which comes or belongs to one by reason of birth.

"Maintaining one's culture, values and traditions is beyond price. Human beings cannot live without that. We are glad to share our culture with Europeans and other migrants but we will never give them up."

Getano Lui, jnr, Thursday Island, 1994

Indigenous Australia has been influenced by other peoples who have come to Australia to stay and peoples who visited Australia for trade or other reasons but did not stay. Indigenous peoples also exchanged ideas and goods among themselves. Goods were exchanged and other things such as songs and dances were traded. Songs and dances were exchanged often at large ceremonial gatherings when many people collected together. These gatherings often occurred at a time and place when there was plenty of particular foods.

Although Indigenous cultures are very strong, years of European misunderstanding and indifference have affected them. Today, Indigenous communities keep cultures alive by:

  • passing their knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another
  • speaking and teaching languages
  • protecting cultural property and sacred and significant sites and objects

The Oldest Living Culture

"We've been here a long, long time"

The long history of Indigenous people is found in the many significant archaeological sites throughout Australia. Archaeological sites provide information about how Indigenous people lived, used resources and were able to adapt to environmental changes in the past. These archaeological sites also illustrate how Indigenous cultures have changed over time. Archaeological investigations in the northwest of Australia suggest that Indigenous people may have occupied Australia for at least 60, 000 years.

Sites of cultural significance are protected by law. Any activities which could damage these sites must be cleared by the relevant Indigenous communities.

Botany Bay, New South Wales

One type of archaeological site that can be found on the shores Botany Bay is a shell midden. Archaeological evidence shows that a midden in Botany Bay was occupied many times during the last 3 000 years.

Middens are sites where Aboriginal people ate different kinds of shellfish, fish and other animals. Mounds of shells and other leftovers indicate the site's special use by humans.



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