Indigenous Peoples of Australia
Australia is home to the oldest continuing living culture in the world. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have existed and cared for Country for more than 60,000 years. Language is central to identity and culture, regardless of the extent to which it is spoken. In Australia there are more than 250 Indigenous languages including around 800 dialects. At least 124 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are in use, or being revitalised, with at least 31 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language varieties being reawakened by communities in Australia.
Aboriginal peoples comprise many diverse nations, each with their own culture, customs, language and lore. They have historically lived on mainland Australia, Tasmania and on many of the continent's offshore islands. Torres Strait Islander people come from the islands of the Torres Strait, between the tip of Cape York in Queensland and Papua New Guinea, and tend to prefer using the name of their home Island to identify themselves to outsiders. They have their own distinct identity, languages and cultural traditions.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, land relates to all aspects of existence - culture, spirituality, language, lore, family and identity. Rather than owning land, each person belongs to a piece of land which they’re related to through the kinship system. That person is entrusted with the knowledge and responsibility to care for their land, providing a deep sense of identity, purpose and belonging. This deep relationship between people and the land is defined as their Connection to Country. The relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the land is one of reciprocity and respect - the land sustains and provides for the people, and the people sustain and manage the land through culture and ceremony.
Did you know two flags represent the Indigenous people of Australia?
The Aboriginal flag’s design consists of a coloured rectangle divided in half horizontally. The top half of the flag is black to symbolise Aboriginal people. The red in the lower half stands for the earth and the colour of ochre, which has ceremonial significance. The circle of yellow in the centre of the flag represents the sun. The designer Harold Thomas says the colours of the flag represent the Aboriginal people of Australia and their spiritual connection to the land.
The Torres Strait Islander was created as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islander peoples. The cultures and traditions of Torres Strait Islanders are strongly connected to the land, sea and sky - elements which are represented in the flag. The green panels at the top and bottom of the flag represent the land and the central blue panel represents the sea. The black lines dividing the panels represent the Torres Strait Islander people. The centre of the flag shows a white dhari (dancer’s headdress) which represents Torres Strait Islander culture. Underneath the dhari is a white five-pointed star. The star is an important symbol for navigating the sea. The points of the star represent the five island groups in the Torres Strait and the white symbolises peace. Each part of the flag gives meaning to Torres Strait Islander culture and holds special legal and political status worldwide.
Indigenous focused activities Australia will participate in over the Expo 2020 Dubai programme
The Pavilion showcases how Australia is home to a wide range of creative art and cultural industries, known internationally for their unique style and enriched Indigenous history- with opportunity to highlight artists, their artwork and share their stories with the world. Below encapsulates a few stories however not limited to what has been displayed within:
- A vibrant collaboration creation between Indigenous artist and 2020 NAIDOC poster winner, Tyrown Waigana and Emirati artist Khalid Mezaina. The dual creation is a colourful demonstration of the two cultures and is a striking addition to our VIP Majlis balcony. The artwork, a representation of connection and sharing through Indigenous Songlines, integral to Aboriginal culture and depicts images of local rituals of Arab hospitality.
- Maggie Douglas 2021 NAIDOC Week poster winner ‘Care for Country’ will be displayed within Tolerance and Inclusivity Week from 14-20 November 2021. A bright and vibrant piece exploring how Country has cared for and healed Indigenous people spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and culturally.
- Contemporary Indigenous artist and proud Yorta Yorta / Gunditjamara man, Josh Muir presents a depiction of life in Australia, using vibrant coloured digital prints that pays homage to modern street art and visual storytelling.