Aboriginal tribes

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There are several hundred Aboriginal tribes in Australia . The number of tribes before the British colonized Australia, i.e. before 1788, is estimated to be over 200 to 700, depending on the source.

Aborigines generally speak of their people and their land ; in eastern Australia some tribes also refer to themselves as nation . A dialect is spoken in their ethnographic areas, some of which are the size of an average European country. In scientific discourse, groups that speak the same dialect, tribes or bands, are referred to as being closest to the translation into stem. A map of the tribes was first published by Norman Tindale in 1940 and revised in 1974.

Nicolas Peterson has divided the Australian tribes into 17 different cultural areas of the Aborigines according to their respective cultural characteristics .

Compare also Australian languages .

Largest tribes

Within a country, people lived in their clans that were extended families with different kinship systems . Contacts between the clans as well as between peoples were common, but there were strict protocols for these encounters.

Life forms

It is generally known that the Aborigines lived as hunters and gatherers nomadically in the interior and along the coasts of Australia.

What is less well known is that the Gunditjmara , for example, had a sophisticated system of aquaculture and eel breeding and that they built stone dwellings. They built an aquaculture using stone dams to hold back the water in the swamps, where they raised eels and other fish. They directed the water over weirs and caught fish in traps .

It is also little known that the extinct Ngaro tribe lived on islands in the sea area of ​​the Whitsunday Islands and were the only seafaring Aboriginal tribe in Australia to nomad from island to island using outrigger canoes . In doing so, they developed skills to navigate safely at sea.

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Portrait of Bennelong , of the Eora people , who had been given a brick hut at Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House now stands. Bennelong traveled to England after 1792.
  • The Cammeraygal , also known as Awabakal, were a people who lived on the north bank of Sydney , in the area of ​​what is now the North Sydney Council . The name "Cammeraygal" is part of the emblem of North Sydney and gave the Cammeray district its name. The Awabakal also lived in what is now Newcastle .
  • The Eora were the residents of the Sydney area in 1788 when the first European settlers arrived. Some words of today's Australian English comes from the language of the Eora, as Dingo , Woomera , wallaby , wombat , Waratah , Boobook Owl and Wallaroo . Bennelong was an elder of the Eora people. He served as an intermediary between the British and Eoras. Bennelong traveled to England and returned to Australia in 1795. He died on January 3, 1813 in Kissing Point, now known as Ryde. Bennelong Point, where the Sydney Opera House now stands, is named after him. He lived there when he persuaded New South Wales Governor Arthur Phillip to build a brick hut for him.
  • The number of Yuin in 1788 was about 11,000 people, which was reduced to 600 by the middle of the 19th century due to the smallpox epidemics of 1789 and 1830, as well as due to tribal wars and infectious diseases that European whalers brought with and against the Aborigines had no defenses . They lived on the south coast of New South Wales and their land reached Cape Howe as far as the Shoalhaven River and inland to the Great Dividing Range .

Northern Territory

  • Alyawarre live northeast of Alice Springs . In 1980 they asserted their claim to land, which was returned to them on October 22, 1992. The country is 2065 km².
  • Arrernte refers to a people, a language and an area in central Australia. The population is estimated at 25,000, including those who live in Alice Springs, making it the second largest of all Central Australian peoples after the Pitjantjatjara. In most schools in Alice Springs, Arrernte, and sometimes Western Arrernte, is a compulsory language alongside French and Indonesian for students of all races and nationalities. Arrernte can also be studied as a separate subject in most Alice Springs high schools and Centralian College as part of a vocational college course. There are plans to set up a subject at the university in the future. About 25 percent of Alice Springs' population speak Arrernte as their first language.
  • Gurindji lived at Wave Hill Cattle Station from 1966 to 1975. As a result of the "Gurindji Strike" in 1975, the government of the Australian Labor Party under Gough Whitlam finallynegotiatedwith the Vesteys, the white owners, to return part of their land to the Gurindji. This was a milestone in the land rights movement ofthe Australian Aborigines in their efforts to obtain rights to their traditional land.
  • Luritja is a name that refers to different dialects of the language of the Western Desert but also to the people who speak these dialects and their traditional country. The land of the Luritja includes areas to the west and south of Alice Springs and extends to the land of the Arrernte, which lies roughly between Alice Springs and Uluṟu. The total population of the Luritja including the Papunya Luritja is probably several thousand people, making them the third largest people in Central Australia. In the Luritja area is the city of Papunya , which is home to an Aboriginal artist colony.
  • The Murrinh-Patha are a small group who live inland from the settlement of Wadeye between the Moyle and Fitzmaurice rivers. Their language, the so-called Murrinh-Patha, is still spoken by around 900 people. Their culture is characterized by a social structure typical of Aborigines, which includes a complex kinship system and comprehensive behavioral norms for the coming together of the various kinship groups.
The Pitjantjatjara or Anangu live in the vicinity of Uluṟu.
  • Pitjantjatjara refers to both an Aboriginal people in the central Australian desert and their language. Their area of ​​influence extends from Uluṟu in the Northern Territory to the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia. Their language is one of the most widely spoken languages ​​by Australian Aborigines.
  • Warlpiri is a large group in the Northern Territory. There are around 5,000 to 6,000 Warlpiri, mostly in settlements scattered across their traditional lands. Their largest community is in Yuendumu . Unlike many other Aboriginal peoples and groups, many Warlpiri do not speak English. Warlpiri are known for their folk dances. With them they went on tour in England, Japan and Russia.
  • The Yolngu inhabit northeastern Arnhem Land . After learning through contact with Makassars to build boats that were seaworthy unlike traditional tree bark boats, some Yolngu communities began fishing for fish and turtles. Some Aborigines accompanied the Makassars back to their homeland on the other side of the Arafura Sea . The Yolngu also remember with sadness the kidnapping and trafficking of Yolngu women and the introduction of smallpox , which was epidemic in Java .


  • The Guugu Yimidhirr belong to a different language group. There are still a few hundred speakers of their language, mainly around Hopevale , Cooktown and Wujal Wujal on the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland . At what is now Cooktown, two largely different cultures collided when the local Guugu Yimithirr cautiously approached James Cook's battered sailing ship, the HM Bark Endeavor, which was being towed along the coast to find a safe harbor. The term "kangaroo" was added to the English language. It comes from the Guugu-Yimidhirr word for the gray kangaroo, which was called gangaroo .
  • The Kalkadoon lived in the vicinity of Mount Isa in western Queensland. In the 19th century there was fighting between the Kalkadoon and the police. In 1884, depending on the source, around 100 to 800 Kalkadoon were killed in the battle with the police in the Battle Mountain massacre.
  • The Ngaro , also known as the Island People , were seafarers and by no means unlike other Aboriginal tribes they were coastal people . They lived in the sea area of ​​the Whitsunday Islands for about 9,000 years . From 1861 onwards they were forcibly displaced from their habitat, some of them were killed in conflicts and their outrigger boats were burned. Due to the marginalization, they had to hire themselves out and the tribe died out.
  • The Irukandji were the original inhabitants of a narrow coastal region in Djabugay Country that stretched north from the Barron River to Port Douglas on the Mowbray River. Until recently, they lived mainly from fishing in the sea.

South Australia

  • The Dieri are a group of Australian Aborigines. The language of the same name was now considered extinct. The Dieri live in the South Australian desert, specifically in the area of Cooper Creek , Leigh Creek, Lake Howitt, Lake Hope, Lake Gregory, Clayton River and the flat land north of Mount Freeling. The Dieri protested against the Marree Man ; they said that this work of art did damage to Land Art and was exploiting their Dreamtime .
  • The Kaurna have their ancestral settlement area and around the Adelaide Plains . The Kaurna lived in independent family groups in defined territories called Pangkarra. The Kaurna were the southernmost community that performed circumcision as part of an initiation . The last native speaker, Ivaritji, died in 1931.
  • The Maralinga Tjarutja inhabit the remote western areas of South Australia . They are the Southern Pitjantjatjara . The Native Title was returned to the Maralinga Tjarutja in January 1985 when both Houses of Parliament of South Australia passed the relevant legislation in December 1984 and promulgated it in January 1984. The Maralinga people repopulated the land in 1995 and named the place Oak Valley Community. The Aborigines were not adequately warned before the explosions of the nuclear tests in 1950, which is why they suffered from the consequences of radioactive precipitation , which, however, could not be proven to the royal commission 1984/1985.
  • Ngarrindjeri is the language and traditional Aboriginal people who live on the lower Murray River and in the western part of the Fleurieu Peninsula . Their original settlement area was between Mannum , downstream through Murray Bridge and Goolwa and along the coast between Victor Harbor to Cape Jervis , around Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert, Coorong to Kingston. The Ngarrindjeri gained widespread publicity in the 1990s for their opposition to the construction of the Goolwa to Hindmarsh Island bridge, which prompted the appointment of a royal commission and, in 1996, the trial of the case to the High Court . According to legend, there was a sea creature named Muldjewangk whoinhabitedthe Murray River , particularly Lake Alexandrina.


Tasmanian Aborigines at Oyster Cove
  • 20th century historians believed that Tasmanians died out with the death of Truganini (1873); this view is no longer shared today. The original population, estimated at 8,000, fell to 300 between 1802 and 1833, mainly at the hands of white settlers arriving from Britain, combined with disease and cultural destruction. The Black War and the Black Line that followed were turning points in the relationship with the European settlers. Even if various Aborigines succeeded in avoiding capture and deportation, they were shocked by the massiveness of the action directed against them and hardly resisted except for Walyer , the leader of a rebel group of Tasmanian Aborigines. Mannalargenna was the leader of the Plangermeireener people of Ben Lomond, who were the first Aborigines to advocate a peaceful solution to the Black War. Both Black War and Black Line failed. Ultimately, George Augustus Robinson , a British man who tried to rescue the last 300 Aborigines to Flinders Island in the so-called Friendly Mission , also failed . Even this concept could not prevent the downfall of these Aborigines, since the goal was Christianization and on this small island in the Wybalenna settlement they were cut off from their cultural and social livelihoods, withered and decimated by diseases. The Tasmanians of today are all descendants of relations between Tasmanians and Europeans.


  • The Gunai or Kurnai live in south east Victoria, around Wilsons Promontory , Sale , Bairnsdale , Lakes Entrance , Snowy River, and Mallacoota . The Gunai resisted the European invasion. Many were killed in the fighting between 1840 and 1850. In 1863, Pastor Friedrich Hagenauer set up the Ramahyuck Mission on the banks of the Avon River near Lake Wellington to give the surviving Gunai from West and Central Victoria a place to stay.
  • The Gunditjmara were a traditional river and sea people in western Victoria. They had an elaborate system of aquaculture and eel breeding as well as building stone dwellings. They built stone dams to hold back the water in these areas in the swamps, where they raised eels and other fish. They also built connections between these swamps as well as fish weirs. In the Convincing Ground Massacre in 1833, more than 200 of them were massacred in a confrontation over a whale and they were involved in a 20 year Eumerella Wars with the European settlers. The Gunditjmara now living on Lake Condah own about 20 square kilometers of their original land on the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape, which is inscribed on the list of cultural monuments of Australia.
  • The union of the Kulin is one of the indigenous nations of Australia who lived in the center of Victoria, around Port Phillip , today's Melbourne , as well as at the Western Port, up to the Great Dividing Range and in the valleys of the Loddon and Goulburn rivers. The nation included the Wurundjeri and Bunurong clans . On June 6, 1835, John Batman signed a treaty (known as Batman's Treaty ) with Billibellary of the Wurundjeri, with which he signed 2000 km² around Melbourne and another 400 km² around Geelong . In exchange he gave eight elders (or "wise men") whose marks he had on his contract, blankets, knives, hatchets, scissors, telescopes, flour, handkerchiefs and shirts. In 1863 the surviving members of the Wurundjeri and the Woiwurrung were given permission to live on the grounds of the Coranderrk Farm near Healesville. The contract was annulled by the colonial government because it undermined the concept of Terra Nullius . William Barak was the last ngurungaeta (tribal leader) of the Wurundjeri Willam clan. Bunjil is seen as a cultural hero or god of kulin. The Bunurong were called the Western Port or Port Philip Group by Europeans.

Western Australia

Portrait of Yagan , the Noongar "Chief of Swan River "
  • The Noongar (alternative spellings: Nyungar / Nyoongar) are a group of Aborigines who live in the south-west of Western Australia from Geraldton in the mid-west to Esperance on the south coast. The population of the Noongar at the time of the arrival of the Europeans is estimated at between 6,000 and 10,000. In the 2001 census it was 21,000. Yagan was the leader of the Beeliar group of the Nyungar people when English settlers first arrived in 1829 and established the Swan River Colony . Captain James Stirling stated that the indigenous peoples are British subjects. Although the Nyungar initially operated a friendly trade with the settlers, misunderstandings and rifts increased over time; likewise attacks and retaliatory measures. Eventually Yagan was beheaded and is now considered by many to be one of the first resistance fighters. His head was taken by Ensign Robert Dale, who in 1834 exhibited him across the country as "Chief of Swan River". Many place names in Western Australia are named after a Noongar word. This is especially true for those who end with “up” or “in / ing”; both mean “place of” in different dialects, such as Joondalup , Manjimup , Narrogin and Merredin .
  • The Spinifex People , or Pila Nguru , have their traditional land in the Great Victoria Desert in the states of Western and South Australia and in the north of the Nullarbor Plain . They have largely maintained their hunter-gatherer way of life in this area. Your claims to the native title and the associated rights were recognized on November 28, 2000 with a decision of the federal court. The royal commission was unable to determine whether Pila Nugrus had been exposed to harmful radiation from the fallout from nuclear testing near Maralinga in the 1950s .
  • The Jarrakan are one of many groups in the north of the state.

Individual evidence

  1. Map of the peoples and languages ​​of Australia according to Tindale and Horton ( Memento of the original from April 26, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.abc.net.au
  2. ^ Tindale N. (1974): Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. ISBN 0-520-02005-7
  3. ^ Map of Tindale (1974) Tribal Boundaries in Aboriginal Australia
  4. ^ N. Peterson (1974): The natural and cultural areas of Aboriginal Australia. In Tribes and boundaries in Australia. ISBN 0-85575-048-0
  5. ^ Anna Salleh, Aborigines may have farmed eels, built huts , News in Science, Australian Broadcasting Corporation , March 13, 2003. Retrieved November 26, 2008
  6. Life was not a walkabout for Victoria's Aborigines , The Age, March 13, 2003. Retrieved November 25, 2008
  7. Fiona Dickson: The Ngaro people of the Whitsundays on abc.net, June 25, 2008, accessed May 23, 2010
  8. Chris Coulthard-Clark: The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles ; St. Leonards, Crows Nest, East Melbourne, Auckland: Allen & Unwin, 2001; ISBN 1865086347 ; P. 52 (text excerpts from Google Books)
  9. Ausanthrop (English)
  10. Heysentrail ( Memento of the original from March 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.heysentrail.sa.gov.au

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