Archaeological evidence from Lake Mungo in Central NSW indicates that Aboriginal people may have inhabited Australia for 60 000 years or more. In the relatively isolated situation in which they remained for so long, they developed their culture and their unique connection with this land. In 1788, when Captain James Cook entered AustraliaÃÂs history, the Aboriginal way of life was observed as nomadic or semi-nomadic. This observation resulted in two misconceptions: that Aboriginal people were culturally uniform, and made insignificant use of the land. Because of this, Captain Cook described the continent as terras nullius (empty land). He was so very wrong. Their ÃÂsimpleÃÂ hunting and gathering lifestyle met all basic human needs, creating time for other pursuits. ÃÂThis time thus made available was utilized to devise complex social systems, rituals, narrative and song traditions...ÃÂ( M. Charlesworth p 5) Aboriginal society had hundreds of language groups and many religions, each as diverse as the terrain in which they dwelled.
In spite of the diversity, it is possible to speak of common features of Aboriginal culture: deeply religious, highly developed, positive and intimately related to the land.
Pivotal to Aboriginal religion and encompassing all that it means to be an Australian Aboriginal, is The Dreaming. ÃÂThe Dreaming is then the most real and concrete and fundamental aspect of Aboriginal life...ÃÂ (M. Charlesworth. P11) Dreaming is the closest translation of the Aboriginal concept of how the world works. Dreaming is the past, the present and the future. The Dreaming is a reality that links all aspects of life together. It explains origins, but also marks out appropriate actions in terms of relationships between people and between people and the environment. To place the Dreaming in time is difficult because, while it tells of origins, it links directly to the here and now.