Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the Australian continent in the 19th century, the land was inhabited by a group of people who are today referred to as the Aborigines. According to Lydon (2005, p. 201), archeologists have estimated that these people have been on this continent for about 60,000 years. In addition, he notes that these people had managed to develop their own social, political and economic system although when the European landed on the continent, they regarded these systems as backward and archaic.
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Indigenous history of Indigenous peoples in Victoria & Melbourne Museum‟s Bunjilaka exhibition
According to Flanagan (1998, p.142), Aborigines have been described as one of the friendly people in the continent. He says that in an autobiography by Kerr- one of the first Europeans to settle in Australia in the early 1850s. He points out that Kerr was always on friendly terms with this people. In the autobiography, he claimed that he had not only employed the Aborigines to work as his shepherds but also as his guide and drivers as well.
Ernest (1993, p. 29), argues that these people used to invite Kerr to be part of them as they went on hunting expeditions of the kangaroos and the wild turkey. Moreover, he points out that in order to show their friendly nature, these people invited their visitors to be part and parcel of their ceremonies such as during the weddings and burials of the senior members of their clan.
In addition, Davies (2009, p. 61) asserts that in the museum there are a number of weapons such as shields, spears and arrows. According to him, this is a clear indication that these people used to go to fight with their neighbors.
He points out that, although these people have been classified as Aborigines, they are not of same tribe since they have varying cultures and as well as languages. The presence of spears and shields is a clear demonstration that all was not well at times and thus the need to be armed so as to repel any attacks from other communities.
Lydon (2005, p. 197), has added that in the museum, there are two small bark etchings where any image they had was etched. According to him, this was the work of men and was done on the inside of their shelters. He argues that this kind of work was a clear manifestation of their culture where the idea of art had been developed.
Moreover, Christine (1994, p. 299), claims that there is a bark piece in the museum that is representing an emu hunt. He argues that these people used to participate in dances that used to represent various aspects of their culture. Some of the dances, according to him, were performed prior to a wedding, hunting expedition, and initiation periods. He claims that most of these songs were vocal and that instruments such as the didgeridoos were used to accompany the song and the dance.
Furthermore, Clarke (2002, p. 58) points out that in the museum, there are a number of items placed there to explain the history of these people. He asserts that there is painting work held as an exhibit. According to him, most of these paintings were done from mixing various components such as crushing leaves, to produce certain colors and the clay soil.
He says that these paintings were not only meant for their houses but also used in body painting. In the museum, some of the photographs placed there show women applying some paints on their body in an attempt to add on their beauty. He says that one of the methods that were used in painting was the dot painting. He argues that they would use dots to produce a very attractive painting that is envied by people who visit the museum up to today.
Moreover, Flanagan (1998, p. 149) points out that the Aborigines used to practice rock engraving as part of their culture. Experts in the community would be asked by the people to produce a sculpture that the community wanted. For instance, there are plenty of pictures of kangaroo sculptures that were produced by these people.
In the Melbourne museum, Christine (1994, p. 324), notes that the photographs show that there was a small group of people who used to live in caves. He notes that prior to the arrival of the Europeans like Kerr, the idea of owning a house was not an issue to these people.
He argues that in the museum, there are pictures that depict the earliest forms of livelihood by the Aborigines that range from their rock shelters, and cave walls. It is after the Europeans had come and settled there that their life began to change and houses were constructed although in the European style. According to him, some of the changes that have taken place in the Australian continent and particularly among the Aborigines have been brought about by the presence of the Europeans.
Elliott (2008, p. 98), has argued that Aborigines had for a long time covered their bodies using the animal skins and hides. He points out that, in the Melbourne museum, men, women, and young children are showed covering their lower parts of the body with the skins. Therefore, according to him, this is an illustration that the Aborigine people were hunters. He adds that some of the animals that they were hunting included, kangaroos and the antelopes which were in plenty in the vast areas of Australia.
The current situation of Indigenous peoples in Victoria & Melbourne Museum‟s Bunjilaka exhibition
However, as the time has continued to change, this has called for the Aborigines to change their way of life. It is worth noting that, before the Europeans moved to Australia, land was plenty and the population was still low. In addition, there were no rules that governed land ownership and therefore they would move from one place to another according to the conditions of the weather.
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Fuller (2010, p. 241) argues that, in the past few decades, the Aborigines were discriminated by the subsequent government and were denied many essential services. According to Fuller, it was only in 2008 when the then Prime Minister apologized publicly to them for the oppressions they had faced from the previous governments.
In the contemporary world, Elliott (2008, p. 104) notes that Aborigines have continued to face problems despite being recognized by the Australian government as real citizens of Australia. He argues that housing has become one of the main problems that these people have faced continuously.
He notes that Aborigines have been living in very remote areas where there is no adequate infrastructure. Even for those who have managed to move to cities, he laments that most of them live in the most run down districts in cities like Melbourne or Sydney.
In the education sector, Davies (2009, p. 65) notes that the Aborigines have also become victims. According to him, the Aborigines’ children do not go to school and if they do they do it at a very irregular basis. He says that in 2004, for instance, it was only about 67% of their students were attending school regularly compared to about 97% of the non Aborigines. He observes that this has been the main reason why they have not been able to play any significant role in the management of the Australian day to day affairs.
Lack of opportunities among the Aborigines people has resulted to a number of them engaging in criminal activities. According to Ernest (1993, p. 23) more than 75 percent of prisoners in the Northern Territory are Aborigines. He says that the main cause of this could also be informed by the desire to improve on their living conditions.
Chris (2008, p. 145) adds that, among the Australian population, this group of people experiences high death rates as a result of curable and preventable diseases. Due to this fact, their life expectancy has gone down to about 18 years under the Australian life expectancy indicator.
However, there are some Aborigines who have struggled through life and have managed to elevate their culture in the Australian affairs. For example, Bodley (2007, p. 52) points out that there are some of them who are today engaged in the acts of glassmaking, and even fabric printing. Besides that, he argues that they have their cultural festivals that are usually performed throughout Australia’s major cities.
Discrimination is the worst thing that can ever happen to any human being. Therefore, the Australian government should make sure that during this time all the Aborigines and other minor groups minor groups that have been previously discriminated are compensated and accorded the dignity that is due to them.
Bodley, J., 2007. Victims of progress. Sydney: Mayfield Publication Company.
Chris, H., 2008. Forgetting Aborigines. Sydney: University of New South Wales
Christine, F., 1994. Aboriginal self-determination in Australia. Melbourne: Aboriginal Studies Press.
Clarke, F., 2002. The history of Australia. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
Davies, A., 2009. The Aborigines of Western Australia. Philadelphia: McGraw-Hill.
Elliott, J., 2008. Indigenous Australians and the law. Oxon: Cavendish Publishing Ltd.
Ernest, H., 1993. Aboriginal health and history: power and prejudice in remote Australia. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Flanagan, R., 1998. The Aborigines of Australia. New York: Routledge.
Fuller, J., 2010. The indigenous minority. New York: Springer.
Lydon, J., 2005. Eye contact: photographing indigenous Australians. Melbourne: Duke University Press.