Original inhabitants of the land mass of Australia. They number approximately 300,000, that's 1.5% of the total population of Australia.

The Aborigines (Latin "From the beginning") migrated from Asia to Australia about 60,000 years ago. They are a distinct dark-skinned race known as Australoid.

In addition to the mainland Aboriginals, there are the the Torres Straits Islanders. In all, there are 300 separate groups. Some of the main tribal groups are

Koori and Murrie are not tribal groups but generic terms used to refer to Aboriginal people in general (-Gritchka).There are 31 Aboriginal language groups.

They have maintained a nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life, hunting with spear and boomerang. An Aborigine can spear a fish with great skill by looking for its signature ripple. They believe in a mystical relationship between plants, animals and people (totemism). Aboriginal tribes are ruled by a intricate classification system. For example, the Kariera tribe is divided into sections. A man will have to chose a wife from a certain section.

In the eighteenth century, Captain James Cook landed in Botany Bay. Europeans (primarily British) began to settle Australia and they treated the Aborigines as pests, driving them from their traditional lands into the harsh interior. They poisoned Aboriginal water sources and brought diseases such as smallpox which devasted the natives. Many tribes were wiped out. The British regarded Australia as terra nullius and did not recognise any Aborginal right to land ownership.

In 1951, the Australian government attempted to destroy any sense of a separate ethnic identity among the Aboriginal people by instigating a policy of assimilation. Many Aboriginal children were brought up by white adoptive parents.

In 1967 Aborigines finally received the right to vote and in 1976 they were able to reclaim some land. In 1992 the principle of terra nullius was overturned and more land rights granted. In 1999, the government issued an official statement of regret for the mistreatment of the Aborigines over the years. In the Sydney Olympics the following year, Cathy Freeman an aboriginal athlete lit the Olympic flame.

Things are improving for the Aboriginals of Australia but there is some way to go before their standard of living matches that of the white Australians. Their life expectancy is still 20 years less than the national average.

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