Society And Traditional Lifestyles
Aboriginal society has always changed and adapted to meet the differing needs created in our environment and society since the colonisation of Australia in 1788. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups who continue to live in remote communities, many of whom chose to remain on or near lands (country) from which they were connected, have adapted to the European way of life differently, but to no less an extent, than those living a rural or urban lifestyle. Geographically, whether communities are from urban, remote or regional land areas, the term ‘Traditional' does not apply only to the communities in remote areas; and simultaneously, the term ‘Contemporary' does not apply only to urban communities. Therefore the traditional beliefs and customs that are important in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies are no less important for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than they are for remote area Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are roughly divided into 200-250 distinct language groups speaking around 700 dialects. A common mistake is to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as dialects, or to talk about speaking ‘Aboriginal', when there is no such language. A dialect is a particular variety or branch of a specific language. For example, Wardandi is a dialect of the Bibelmen Nation in the South West of Western Australia. One should not view all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups as a single group with common goals and opinions. The term ‘Aborigine' is actually a European construct used from early contact time to describe the Indigenous inhabitants under a generic term without recognising their cultural diversity. People vary from those living in remote communities to urban groups, rural and regional areas. Diversity also extends to all aspects of life such as religion, political beliefs, cultural ceremonies, creation stories and history. This diversity is an integral part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies and should be given due recognition.
The Commonwealth uses three criteria's to determine Aboriginality. These are; heritage, identity and acceptance. Australia's Indigenous peoples are descendents and members of Aboriginal nations and people who identify as Aboriginal and are accepted by the Aboriginal community where they live and/or come from. Be aware that there are thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are displaced peoples. A 1989 National Indigenous survey revealed 47% of people are still in the process of tracing and/or being reunited with their immediate family and kinship ties. In the Indigenous community the degree of descent is irrelevant. The true matter is about kinship ties. The terms full blood, part or quarter Aboriginal or half caste are unacceptable and offensive to Indigenous people and should not be used