Connection to Country

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have strong cultural and spiritual attachment to the land and sea which for thousands of years have provided them with the foundations of their identity and wellbeing. 

This is based on a long tradition of custodianship, and is reflected through the dreaming and ceremonies as well as the responsibility to care and preserve the land and sea for future generations. 


Prior to European settlement

Before the first Europeans arrived to colonise Australian in 1788, it is estimated that there were approximately 700 Indigenous language groups living in defined areas across the country.  Of these at least 250 languages have been recorded.  Many of these language groups still exist today. 

To provide a better understanding of the different language groups refer to; this will bring up an interactive map with language data collected from AIATSIS

Hunter Gatherers

Indigenous people lived a hunter and gatherer life where the men hunted animals such as kangaroos, echidna, wallabies and emus and the women and children hunted smaller animals and collected fruits, berries, roots and edible plants. 



To maintain their 'healthy country' family groups would only stay in an area for a certain time and only hunt and harvest specific foods. This sustainable approach ensured there would always be sufficient food for the next season.

Different Boundaries

A common misunderstanding amongst mainstream Australia was that Indigenous people did not own land and were nomads. This myth came about because Indigenous people did not mark out their lands in ways that were obvious to Europeans.

There were no fences or barriers as in the traditional European way of marking land ownership and so the Europeans concluded that no one owned the land. In fact, Indigenous people had their own way of dividing areas into traditional lands by using geographic boundaries such as rivers, lakes and mountains. The knowledge about boundaries was then passed down by the Elders to the younger people through songs, dance, art and storytelling.


In 1788 the first fleet arrived in Sydney. The First Fleet is the name given to the eleven ships which sailed from Great Britain on 13 May 1787 with about 1,487 people, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men), to establish the first European colony in Australia, in the region which Captain Cook had named New South Wales. The fleet was led by Captain (later Admiral) Arthur Phillip. The ships arrived at Botany Bay between 18 and 20 January 1788.

The first settlers arrived in Sydney on 16th January 1793.   In August 1792, as a result of repeated requests by Governor Phillip for the dispatch of intelligent and experienced farmers, Dorset farmer Thomas Rose and his family together with four other free settlers sailed in the Bellona for New South Wales. Rose and his companions were the first free and independent settlers to reach Australia. They had the first child born free in the colony and Jane Rose was later referred to as the 'grandmother' of the colony.  Their house 'Rose Cottage' still stands at Wilberforce NSW and it is recognised as Australia’s oldest known timber slab house situated on it’s original site. The family occupied the cottage continuously from 1811 until 1961.

Dispossession - loss of land, culture and identity

With colonisation came dispossession for Indigenous people as they were moved off their traditional lands to make way for farming and european settlements.  Through these actions the special relationship Indigenous people had with the land was broken as they were forced to leave their 'country' and were placed on 'missions' and to live on country they had no association with.  They were no longer able to hunt and gather their traditional foods and were given rations of flour, tea and tobacco.  Traditional ceremonies were not encouraged and in time the use of 'traditional language' was banned.

The loss of land and sea has had devastating impact on Indigenous people and research indicates they are disadvantaged across all of the major social indicators – health, housing, education, employment and the criminal justice systems. 

Despite this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders remain deeply attached to their place of origin, spiritual beliefs, and that deep sense of responsibility to care for the land and sea.

The Aboriginal Flag

The flag was designed by Harold Thomas and was first flown at Victoria Square, Adelaide on National Aborigine's Day on 12 July 1971. 

The flag is divided horizontally into equal halves of black and red, with a yellow circle in the middle.  The black symbolises Aboriginal people, the yellow represents the sun, and the red depicts the earth and red ochre which is used in ceremony. 


The Torres Strait Islander flag

This flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok and adopted in 1992.  The flag stands for unity and identity of all Torres Strait Islanders.  It features three horizontal coloured stripes, with green at the top and botton (for the land), and blue in the middle (for the sea).  The black lines dividing these two colours represent the people and the white dhari (headdress) sits in the middle, with a five-pointed white star underneath; the star representing the island groups.  The white colour represents peace.






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