The word aborigine comes from the Latin phrase ab origine, meaning from the beginning. When spelled with a small "a," the word aborigines refers to any people whose ancestors were the first people to live in a country.
Australian aborigines are the native people of Australia. Most scientists believe that they originated in southeastern Asia, more than 40,000 years ago. In 2001 the population of aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders was 265,000. 2% of the Australian population as a whole and slightly less the estimated aboriginal population of 750,000 at the time of European colonisation in the late 18th century. At that time, there were 500-600 distinct groups of aborigines speaking about 200 different languages or dialects (at least 50 of which are now extinct). Although culturally diverse, these groups were not political and economic entities and lacked class, hierarchies and chiefs. They lived by hunting and gathering, and there was wide trade throughout the continent.
Australian Aborigines, in common with most indigenous peoples such as the native Americans, have strong links to the land and the past. The land is a factor in every action, whether economic, religious, artistic, or legal; in daily life the past is always an important consideration. Aboriginal kinship rules and structures are highly complicated, influencing relationships between each and every individual.
History of the Aborigines
The Aborigines responded in a variety of different ways to the presence of Europeans in their country. While some were welcoming (in some cases at least because they thought whites were the spirits of dead Aboriginal people), others reacted with hostility, and sometimes Aboriginal people living close to the site of a landing by Europeans were killed. As the colonists, whose guns gave them the advantage over the Aborigines, made it plain they intended to remain, and began...