The first people to live in Australia were Aboriginal peoples.
There were many different groups living in many parts of Australia.
Some groups settled on islands and have become known as Torres Strait Islander people.
Each group had its own language.
Australia's first inhabitants
Aboriginal people had already inhabited the Australian continent for about 50 000 – 60 000 years before European settlement. These first Australians occupied much of Australia. Different groups had separate territory and they moved through their territory on foot, making pathways beside streams and rivers, or between water-holes. There were hundreds of Aboriginal languages and many nations. The different groups asked permission if they were wanting to pass through another group’s territory. As they crossed the country of neighbouring groups they carried massage sticks. Some groups of people settled on the islands in the Torres Strait and are known as Torres Strait Islander people. These Islanders and the Aboriginal people in Northern Australia made rafts and canoes and travelled across rivers and across the sea. Those Aboriginal people who travelled south and crossed into the land we now call Tasmania, (Tasmania was joined to the mainland of Australia until about 14 000 years ago) became separated from the mainland when the sea level rose.
How did Aboriginal Australians live?
Australian Aboriginal peoples were hunters and ate the animals they caught, they were also gatherers of plants that could be eaten. The people who lived along the coast were caught and ate fish. They built shelters that were different in design, depending on the climate (the weather), and the season in their part of Australia.
All Aboriginal peoples had tools for digging, cutting and for hunting. Spears, spear throwers and boomerangs were used for hunting and as weapons. They built canoes and other kinds of watercraft from bark. Nets, baskets and bags were made from different fibres and from animal skins. Clothing too, made out of animal skins, varied depending on the weather and the season.
Read about the tools and technology of Aboriginal peoples
Those groups that lived in the north traded with people who lived in New Guinea and with visiting sailors and fishermen from parts of what is now Indonesia. The Aboriginal communities were run by older members of the group, known as elders. The people had their own laws, and languages, and through storytelling, rock art and bark paintings, they passed on their history to each new generation.
Read about the Dreaming: the time of creation
Music and dance of Aboriginal Australians
The didgeridoo (sometimes the didjeridu) may be the world’s oldest wind instrument. It is used to accompany songs and dances. Made from hollowed out tree branches a digeridoo is about 1.3 metres long.