Indigenous Australia For Dummies

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2021-03-15
  • Publisher: Wiley
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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


A comprehensive, relevant, and accessible look at all aspects of Indigenous Australian history and culture 

What is The Dreaming? How many different Indigenous tribes and languages once existed in Australia? What is the purpose of a corroboree? What effect do the events of the past have on Indigenous peoples today? Indigenous Australia For Dummies, Second Edition answers these questions and countless others about the oldest race on Earth. It explores Indigenous life in Australia before 1770, the impact of white settlement, the ongoing struggle by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to secure their human rights and equal treatment under the law, and much more. 

Celebrating the contributions of Indigenous people to contemporary Australian culture, the book explores Indigenous art, music, dance, literature, film, sport, and spirituality. It discusses the concept of modern Indigenous identity and examines the ongoing challenges facing Indigenous communities today, from health and housing to employment and education, land rights, and self-determination. 

  • Explores significant political moments—such as Paul Keating's Redfern Speech and Kevin Rudd's apology, and more 
  • Profiles celebrated people and organisations in a variety of fields, from Cathy Freeman to Albert Namatjira to the Bangarra Dance Theatre and the National Aboriginal Radio Service 
  • Challenges common stereotypes about Indigenous people and discusses current debates, such as a land rights and inequalities in health and education 

Now in its second edition, this book will enlighten readers of all backgrounds about the history, struggles and triumphs of the diverse, proud, and fascinating peoples that make up Australia's Indigenous communities. With a foreword by Stan Grant, Indigenous Australia For Dummies, Second Edition is a must-read account of Australia’s first people.  

Author Biography

Professor Larissa Behrendt is a Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman. She is Distinguished Professor of the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology, Sydney. Larissa was named as 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year and 2011 New South Wales Australian of the Year. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 2020 for her work in Indigenous education, law and the arts.

Table of Contents

Foreword xvii

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 2

Where to Go from Here 3

Part 1: An Ancient People: Then and Now 5

Chapter 1: Understanding Indigenous Australia 7

Indigenous Cultures: Then and Now 8

Ancient traditions 8

Diversity, diversity and more diversity 9

Contemporary painting, singing and dancing 9

Old and new ways of storytelling 10

And they can kick a ball! 10

There Goes the Neighbourhood 10

The takeover begins 11

The colony spreads 11

Loss of land 11

And children taken too 12

Fighting Back 12

The right to be equal 12

Changing the playing field 13

‘We want our land back’ 13

Reconciliation, practical reconciliation and intervention 14

‘Sorry’ — and then what? 14

New Problems for an Old Culture 14

Breaking the cycle of poverty 15

Challenging the rules and regulations 15

Setting up Indigenous enterprises 16

Doing It for Ourselves 16

Chapter 2: Rich Past, Strong Traditions 17

The First Australians 18

65,000 Years of Tradition 19

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations Today 21

Defining who is an Indigenous person 21

Counting the Indigenous population in Australia 23

Locating where Indigenous people live today 25

A Note about the Torres Strait Islands 27

Saying G’Day 28

‘Aboriginal’, ‘Torres Strait Islander’, ‘First Nations’ or ‘Indigenous’? 28

‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Aborigine’? 29

Us mob: Koori, Goori or Murri; Noongar or Nunga? 29

Opening an Event: Welcome to Country 30

Welcome or acknowledgement? 30

What do I say? 31

Whose land am I on? 32

Defining the Identity of an Aboriginal Person or a Torres Strait Islander 33

Stereotypes of Indigenous people 34

But some of us have blond hair and blue eyes! 36

Chapter 3: A Land of Cultural Diversity 37

Exploring the Indigenous Relationship to Land 38

Oral title deeds 39

Accessing another’s country 39

Celebrating Cultural Diversity 39

Clans and nations 40

More than 500 different nations 40

Freshwater people and saltwater people 41

Kinship and Totemic Systems 42

Moieties and skin names 42

Totems 44

Talking Languages 45

Who speaks what now? 45

Vulnerability of languages 46

Coming Together 48

Trade routes 48

Songlines 49

Maintaining Links to Traditional Country 49

Aboriginal land councils 50

Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation 51

National parks 51

Chapter 4: Traditional Cultural Values and Practices 53

Going Back to the Dreamtime 54

How was the world made? 55

The southern sky 55

An oral tradition of storytelling 56

Indigenous Worldviews 57

Sharing based on reciprocity 57

Respecting the wisdom of Elders 58

Separating women’s business from men’s business 58

Respect for the environment 59

Living with Nature 60

Hunting and gathering 61

Bush food 61

Bush medicine 63

Tools 64

Looking to the Skies 67

The Dark Emu 67

Controlling the Environment 67

Fire 68

Harvesting 68

Fish traps 69

Middens 69

Shelter 69

Contemporary Cultural Values 70

Caring for Country 71

Part 2: Invasion 73

Chapter 5: First Contacts 75

Looking for the Unknown Southern Land: Contact before 1770 76

Meet the neighbours: The Macassans 76

The Dutch were here 78

And then came the English 78

Landing in Australia: Cook’s Arrival 79

Cook’s instructions 80

Joseph Banks’ observations 81

The French floating around 81

Establishing a British Colony 82

Seeing through Indigenous Eyes: Perspectives on the Arrival 82

‘We thought they were ghosts’ 83

‘Are they human?’ 83

Chapter 6: The Brits’ First Colony: 1788 85

Captain Phillip and the First Fleet 86

The long trip over 86

The Captain’s orders 87

Establishing a Penal Colony 88

First impressions 89

A difficult start 90

Seeing How the Locals Dealt with the New Arrivals 91

Bennelong 92

Barangaroo 93

Pemulwuy 94

Patyegarang and Lieutenant Dawes 96

Chapter 7: Pushing the Boundaries of the Colony 99

Opening Up the Land: White Settlement Spreads 100

Spreading Disease Far and Wide 101

Meeting Aboriginal Resistance 102

Growing the British Colony 105

Over the mountains 107

To Van Diemen’s Land 108

Into Moreton Bay 110

The Adelaide experiment 110

Dealing with Frontier Conflict 111

A wealth of misunderstanding 111

Official responses 112

Refuge at a cost: Missions and reserves 116

Ignoring Prior Ownership: No Treaties 120

Chapter 8: Land, Livestock and Loss 123

Clashing Cultures: Conflict over Land 124

Aboriginal people, land grants and squatters 124

Conflict on the frontier 126

Aboriginal People and the Developing Pastoral Economy 127

Off the sheep’s back 128

The rise of the cattle industry 128

Aboriginal women and pastoralists 132

Asserting Rights and Other Acts of Resistance 133

The petitions of William Cooper 133

The Pilbara strike 134

The Wave Hill walk-off 135

Chapter 9: Taking the Children 137

Examining the Ideology of Assimilation 138

‘Making them white’ 139

‘Focus on the children’: Forget about the oldies 140

‘For their own good’ 141

Formalising the Removal Policy: Rules and Regulations 142

The impact on Indigenous children 143

The impact on Indigenous families 144

Acknowledging the Stolen Generations 145

The report of the inquiry into the Stolen Generations 145

The official response 147

Unfinished Business: Reparations and Compensation 149

Saying sorry 150

Seeking legal justice 152

The realities of litigation and compensation 153

Part 3: Indigenous Activism 157

Chapter 10: Citizenship Rights 159

Early Claims to Better Treatment 160

Flinders Island 161

Coranderrk 162

Cummeragunja reserve 164

British Subjects, but Not Quite 164

Denying basic rights 165

For their own ‘protection’ 166

The realities of assimilation 167

Excluding Indigenous People from the Constitution 167

The states establish their powers 168

A legal ability to discriminate 169

War Heroes: Frontier Wars and Beyond 170

The black diggers 170

Returned soldiers and racism 173

Still Denied Equality 174

Dispossession increases 174

A piece of paper to say you’re white 175

Not Taking It Lying Down 175

Indigenous people organise 176

The 1938 Day of Mourning 178

Steps Towards Equality 179

Chapter 11: The 1967 Referendum 181

Growing Awareness of Indigenous Disadvantage 182


The Freedom Ride 184

The Referendum is Announced 186

Getting to ‘yes’: The constitutional campaign 187

Australia decides 188

Lasting Legacies of the Referendum 189

The power to legislate 190

But no protection against discrimination 190

The myths of the referendum 192

The unintended consequences 192

Not what was hoped for so what next? 193

Chapter 12: Land Rights 195

Establishing the Modern Land Rights Movement 196

Linking land rights and social justice 196

Setting up the Tent Embassy 198

Visiting the Black Panthers 200

Comparing Land Rights with Native Title 202

Legislating Land Rights 203

Recommending the Northern Territory Land Rights Act 204

Looking at the New South Wales Land Rights Act 207

Failing to Secure a National Land Rights Scheme 208

Following the Mabo Case: A Finding for Native Title 210

A native title package 211

The legacy of the Mabo case 213

Examining Public Reactions to Land Claims 214

Looking At the Work Still to Be Done: Taking Back the Land 215

Chapter 13: The Era of Reconciliation 217

Starting the Reconciliation Process 218

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation 218

Paul Keating’s Redfern Park speech 220

Trying to deliver on land and social justice 221

Establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission 223

Defining the aims of ATSIC 224

Recognition, rights and reform 226

The Unfinished Business of Reconciliation 229

A pathway for reconciliation 230

‘We call for a treaty’ 234

Why a treaty? 235

What would a treaty look like? 236

First steps? 237

Chapter 14: Practical Reconciliation 239

‘The Pendulum Has Swung Too Far’ 240

‘Practical reconciliation’ explained 241

Winding back Indigenous rights 242

The history wars, or culture wars 242

A walk across the bridge 243

A Human Rights Scorecard 244

The Abolition of ATSIC 245

After ATSIC 248

A new administration 249

The National Indigenous Council 250

Shared Responsibility and Mutual Obligation 251

Emergency! Emergency! The Northern Territory Intervention 253

Key aspects of the Northern Territory Emergency Response 254

Objection! 254

Chapter 15: From Apology to Uluru 259

A New Government — A New Era? 260

The apology 260

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 261

Controlling Lives: The Intervention Continues 264

Evaluating the Northern Territory intervention 264

International criticism 266

Finding a National Voice 267

Another representative body 267

Constitutional change 268

The Uluru Statement 270

International benchmarks 272

Part 4: Contemporary Indigenous Cultures 275

Chapter 16: More than Rocks and Dots: Indigenous Art 277

Understanding the Role of Art in Indigenous Cultures 278

Connecting to the spirit through art 278

Using art to inform 279

Reading between the dots: Knowing what the symbols mean 280

Considering Indigenous Art around Australia 282

Recognising rock art 282

Looking at bark painting 283

Dot, dot, dot art 285

Appreciating Indigenous crafts 287

Examining Torres Strait Islander Art 289

Contemplating Urban Indigenous Art 291

Pulling no political punches 291

Finding out more about Indigenous photographers 294

Moving in the Mainstream: Indigenous Art as a Means to an Economic End 296

Revealing Indigenous Art Fraud 299

Chapter 17: Singing and Dancing 303

Traditional Expression through Music and Dance 304

The sacred and the profane 304

Banging out a rhythm 305

Traditional songs 306

Cultural dance 306

Carrying a Tune: Contemporary Indigenous Music 307

Singers in the mainstream 307

Both types: Country and western 309

Rock and pop 310

Just a few of the best 312

Hip-hop, rap and metal: Young people have their say 313

Jumping into Modern Indigenous Dance 315

Indigenous dance companies 315

The Bangarra Dance Theatre 317

Torres Strait Islander dance 318

Chapter 18: Indigenous Literature: We’ve Always Been Storytellers 321

Moving From Oral to Written Traditions 322

Writing about the ‘Aborigine’ in Australian Literature 323

White people writing about black people 323

Black people writing about black people 326

Establishing Indigenous Literature 328

Breaking through with Indigenous novels 328

Putting it into verse: Aboriginal poetry 330

Publishing Indigenous Stories 331

Not Putting Your Foot in It! 332

Chapter 19: Performance Storytelling: Film, Theatre, Television and Radio 335

Acting the Part: Indigenous People in Films 336

Films about Indigenous people 336

Taking Over the Camera 341

Indigenous filmmakers 342

Noteworthy Indigenous films 343

Telling it like it is: Documentaries 346

Treading the Black Boards 348

The National Black Theatre 348

Indigenous theatre companies 350

Must-see Indigenous plays 350

Appearing on Mainstream Screens 353

Notable Indigenous television shows 356

Indigenous media organisations 359

National Indigenous Television 361

Getting onto Mainstream Airwaves 363

National Indigenous Radio Service 363

Koori radio 364

Chapter 20: Indigenous People and Sport 365

A (Traditional) Sporting Life 366

Marngrook 366

Coreeda 366

Other traditional Indigenous games 367

Playing Them at Their Own Games 369

Getting in and having a go 369

Teaching through sport 370

Slipping on the Whites: Cricket 371

The first Indigenous cricket team 371

Indigenous cricketers today 372

Women’s cricket 373

Stepping Up in the Boxing Ring 374

The boxing tents 374

Title fighters 374

We Love Our Footy! 377

Australian Rules Football 377

Rugby league 381

Rugby union 385

Soccer 386

Track and Field 388

Championing Other Sports 389

All-rounders at basketball 389

Excelling at netball 390

A few out of the box 391

Part 5: Dealing with Current Issues 395

Chapter 21: Closing the Gap: Health, Housing, Education and Employment 397

Looking Back at Past Government Policies 398

Moving from ‘amity’ to ‘practical reconciliation’ 399

Closing the gap 400

Closing the Gap Reboot 401

Examining Health Issues 403

Discussing particular medical issues for Indigenous people 404

Watching the emergence of Indigenous medical services and professionals 405

Looking at Housing Problems 409

Learning about Education Issues 412

Primary education 413

Secondary education 414

Tertiary education 415

Vocational education and training (VET) 418

Education as a step up the ladder 418

Working on Employment Problems 418

Realising why employment issues exist for Indigenous people 419

Running Indigenous businesses 421

No new Stolen Generations: Keeping Indigenous Children with their Families 422

Chapter 22: Working In the System and Changing the System 425

Black Lives Matter: Indigenous People and the Criminal Justice System 426

Examining the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 426

Indigenous women and the criminal justice system 429

Stopping the cycle: Indigenous young people and incarceration 431

Inspecting the relationship between Indigenous people and police 431

Recognising customary law and sentencing 434

Changing the system from within 437

Reading the Australian Constitution: A Framework for Laws and Policies 437

The 1967 referendum 438

The 1999 referendum 440

Proposing Legal and Constitutional Reform 440

Considering changes 440

Responding to the Uluru Statement 442

Scrutinising Self-Determination and Self-Representation 442

Self-determination – more than a principle 443

Self-representation 443

Working within the existing process 446

Part 6: The Part of Tens 449

Chapter 23: Ten Important Indigenous Cultural Sites 451

Uluru, Northern Territory 452

Kata Juta, Northern Territory 452

Nitmiluk, Northern Territory 452

Windjana Gorge, Western Australia 453

Daintree Rainforest, North Queensland 453

Mungo National Park, New South Wales 453

Yeddonba, Victoria 454

Ngaut Ngaut, South Australia 454

Wybalenna, Tasmania 454

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra 455

Chapter 24: Ten Indigenous Firsts 457

The First Indigenous Australian to Visit Great Britain: 1793 457

The First Indigenous Cricket Team Tour: 1868 458

The First Indigenous ‘Pop Star’: 1963 459

The First Indigenous Person to be Australian of the Year: 1968 459

The First Indigenous Person to be Elected to the Australian Parliament: 1971 460

The First Indigenous Lawyer: 1976 460

The First Indigenous Person to Make a Feature Film: 1992 461

The First Indigenous Surgeon: 2006 461

The First Indigenous Senior Council (SC): 2015 462

The First Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians: 2019 462

Chapter 25: Ten Myths about Indigenous People 463

‘Indigenous People Have a Problem with Alcohol’ 464

‘Indigenous People Are a Dying Race’ 464

‘Indigenous People Who Live in Urban Areas Have Lost Their Culture’ 464

‘Indigenous People Were Killed Off in Tasmania’ 465

‘Indigenous People Are Addicted to Welfare’ 465

‘Too Much Money is Spent on Indigenous People’ 465

‘Real Indigenous People Live in Remote Areas’ 466

‘Indigenous Organisations Mismanage Money and Are Prone to Nepotism’ 467

‘Indigenous Culture is Violent and Accepts Abuse of Women and Children’ 467

‘Indigenous Self-Determination Has Been Tried but It Has Failed’ 468

Chapter 26: Ten Key Legal Decisions (Plus One to Keep an Eye On) 469

R v Jack Congo Murrell: 1836 470

The Gove Land Rights Case: 1971 470

Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen: 1982 471

The Mabo Case: 1992 471

The Wik Case: 1996 472

Kruger v Commonwealth: 1997 472

The Hindmarsh Island Bridge Case: 1998 473

Gunner and Cubillo: 2000 473

The Yorta Yorta Case: 2002 474

The Trevorrow Case: 2007 474

The Timber Creek Case: 2019 475

Glossary 477

Index 481

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