List of linked articles
How was Aboriginal land ownership lost to invaders?
Aboriginal people owned all of Australia prior to invasion. Why can courts today successfully turn down their land claims?
New economic opportunities for Aboriginal land
Aboriginal land offers innovative opportunities for economic benefit. Carbon farming, biobanks, cattle and farming are just a start.
Aboriginal fire management
When Aboriginal people use fire to manage country they consider a plethora of parameters. Read why cool fires are key and why the canopy is sacred.
The 1963 Yirrkala bark petitions
In 1963 the Australian government took 300 square kilometres of land from the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land without even asking them.
Wanting their voices to be heard, the Yolngu people submitted two bark petitions that made history, but didn’t help them.
The 1972 Larrakia petition
Signed by 1,000 Aboriginal people, the 1972 Larrakia petition is one of the most important documents in the history of their struggle for land rights.
Aboriginal land rights
The Aboriginal land rights movement started in 1966 with a demand for better wages.
10 years later the first Aboriginal land rights act secured Aboriginal people’s rights to land.
Aboriginal land management & care
Modern Aboriginal land care methods are very different than traditional methods but address issues such as greenhouse gas emission. Bush rangers are critical for many land care tasks and highly successful.
Land management improves health
Research confirms that Aboriginal people caring for the land improve the health of both themselves and the land.
Four land management principles help them improve their health.
Overcrowded houses are a major problem in Aboriginal communities, with up to 17 people sharing a 3-bedroom house. Overcrowding leads to a wide range of problems affecting all areas of peoples’ lives.
Tourism on Aboriginal land
Bush rangers can use their intimate knowledge of the land in the tourism industry to offer the ‘authentic’ experience overseas visitors are looking for.
Aboriginal land claims
Claiming land is a difficult and expensive process for Aboriginal people. Many applications wait decades for consideration.
Aboriginal scarred trees
Carved trees have been scarred by Aboriginal people for various purposes, from cutting out bark for a canoe to spiritual purposes.
Very few carved trees remain today. They are said to be a history book and represent Aboriginal people’s soul.
Blue Mud Bay High Court decision
A landmark decision of the High Court of Australia that Aboriginal people have the right to issue fishing licences opened up a multi-million industry to them.
Meaning of land to Aboriginal people
Land means different things to non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people. The latter have a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection. Land management and care are vital for Aboriginal health and provide jobs. Many Aboriginal artworks tell about the connection between people and their land.
Northern Territory (NT) Land Rights Act (1976)
The NT Land Rights Act gave Aboriginal people a say over land development through informed consent but governments are constantly chipping away on “the Mt Everest of land rights”.
Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA)
Indigenous Protected Areas allow traditional owners manage the land and pass on knowledge. And they can work really well.
8 major threats to Aboriginal land
Many threats endanger Aboriginal land and Aboriginal peoples’ heritage, history and sacred sites—are you one of them?
Aboriginal homelands & outstations
Homelands are proven to make Aboriginal people healthier and stronger, but they are expensive to live in and don’t get much love from the government.
Guide to Aboriginal sites and places
Discover the multitude of Aboriginal sites and places and how Aboriginal people used them, sometimes for generations.
Houses are one of the base requirements for us to feel safe and sound. Without adequate housing we cannot learn or form rich lives.
Australia’s first white visitors assumed that Aboriginal people did not build permanent dwellings or shelters which became one of the reasons for the continent’s invasion. But was this true?
Native title issues & problems
Native title parties need to prove an ongoing connection. Often numerous parties are involved. Processing applications can take many years which lets some politicians find strange “solutions”.
Learn what native title is and which historic events shaped the modern Aboriginal people’s relationship to their traditional lands.
List of short articles
The tide of history can never take away our connection to land, because it is a spiritual connection and at a higher level. [...] Our law and spirituality is intertwined with the land, the people and creation and this forms our culture and our sovereignty.—Wadjularbinna, Gungalidda Elder (Gulf of Carpentaria) 
Think about it
Why do you think there are so many ‘Boundary Roads’ throughout larger cities, such as Brisbane?
Boundary roads get their name from the landmarks Indigenous people could not cross at night .
Meaning of water
Aboriginal people know stand-alone or “cultural” water. Cultural water is water associated with ceremony, protecting cultural heritage sites that require wetting, initiation sites in wetlands or near rivers, men’s business and women’s business and birthing sites .
This water needs to stand alone, meaning aside from other interests in water such as looking after healthy rivers, healthy native fish stocks and keeping sheep and cattle out of rivers.
Phil Duncan, chair of the First Peoples’ Water Engagement Council, explains Aboriginal connections with water .
“We have this relationship, this invisible connection to water, with spirit, culture, songlines, our dreaming,” he said. “Rivers form tribal boundaries, are travel highways and provide food. Fish have different totemic value for different peoples, for example the eastern cod has great significance for the Ballina, Tabulam and Baryulgil mobs, and so does the turtle.”
Researching this invisible connection is hard, Duncan says, as there is little understanding in the wider community and Aboriginal people are telling their story, songline and connection to others.
Some Aboriginal people believe that the first rain after a long drought “washes the sickness away” and it is unsafe to swim in that water. Only after the “second rain” is safe to go to the water hole .
Fact In 2018, only 0.01% of water rights were under Aboriginal control. Water rights help communities with cultural, environmental and economic activities. 
What good is all that land if we don’t have a say in the way the river is managed?—Badger Bates, Barkandji elder, Darling river region 
What are ‘cultural flows’?
Cultural Flows are ‘water entitlements that are legally and beneficially owned by Indigenous Nations of a sufficient and adequate quantity and quality, to improve the spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic conditions of those Indigenous Nations’. 
Cultural flows is a concept that says Aboriginal people have a right to water for spiritual, economic and environmental purposes. By securing water allocations, Aboriginal communities along a river can take part in the management of that river system. 
Cultural flows are not the same as environmental flows. The latter might help flush a wetland, but not necessarily align with Aboriginal ideas of keeping a river healthy.
For more information, go to the National Cultural Flows Research Project.
How can this community be so successful?
The remote Aboriginal community of Utopia, 110kms north of Alice Springs, left researchers and bureaucrats ask: Why is this community doing so well?
- The death rate is “strikingly low” compared with other Aboriginal populations in the NT.
- The average mortality rate is nearly half that of the general NT population (which has an Aboriginal proportion of more than 30%).
- There is no increase in diabetes or obesity over the past 20 years.
- Death rates from cardiovascular diseases are about half those of the Territory’s Aboriginal population.
Such results are unique because they are outside national trends, even though residents in Utopia had the same levels of housing, income and employment as other remote Aboriginal communities .
Researchers attributed the community’s success to a pro-active health service, and the decentralised layout of the community, which provided access to traditional lands for hunting and gathering.
“Mastery and control over life circumstances is a fundamental determinant of good health,” concludes Prof Ian Anderson, from the Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health . “People in Utopia have designed their own community, have freehold title to their land and control over the way health services are delivered.”
There is also a great sense of pride in the community’s achievements and in the strong cultural practices that continue in Utopia.
This study gives hard evidence that community outstations and a community lifestyle do actually work if the primary healthcare is delivered properly.—Ricky Tilmouth, Urapuntja Health Service, Utopia 
Sustainable hunting and gathering
Aboriginal people were acutely aware of the delicate relationship they had with the land. When they hunted and gathered food they had to do so sustainably in order to preserve the resource for the next cycle.
Ngarrindgeri man Tom Trevorrow explains a few gathering and hunting methods and how his people made sure the sources were not depleted :
- Fruits and berries. Aboriginal people gathered evenly from the land and never picked everything from one area, otherwise it would take a long time to return again.
- Birds eggs. They only took about half the eggs from a nest, and only the fresh ones. To avoid birds abandoning their nest because of human smell, Aboriginal people splashed the nest with water or rubbed their hands in the surrounding grasses, trees and sand.
- Fish. Only the fish required to feed the family were caught. If they caught more fish, the extra fish were kept alive and fresh for another day in fish traps.
- Animals. When hunting kangaroos or emus the ones with joeys or chicks were not taken.
Now I realise that this was, and is, the Ngarrindjeri way of farming the land and this is how my ancestors survived in this country for so long.—Tom Trevorrow, Ngarrindjeri man 
Bush tucker: Collecting bush onions
The following video shows a group of Aboriginal students from Wangkatjungka School, led by teachers of the Department of Education, driving out into the bush to search for bush onions, or jurnta (pronounced ‘yurnda’). Bush onions are an important source of protein.
The students themselves shot and comment this video. The Wangkatjungka community is located about 120 kms south-east of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Torres Strait Islander people have different names for wind to describe a cold breeze or a tropical storm. Elma Kris, from the Bangarra Dance Theatre, explains the winds of her home country, the Torres Strait .
“They use [different names] to describe the winds: Naigai, Zei, Sager and Kuki, and how they merge in a climate way, in a weather way.”
“In white man world, you gotta use the compass and the direction, where it comes from and have the name for it: ‘ok, the wind comes from the south’ or ‘the wind comes from the west’.
“In our culture, we have a language for it and it is also our totem. So we have wind totem. We have Zei, the cold breeze wind and then we have Kuki like a cyclone wind and Naigai is the calmness, where the water goes still but you have the glittering and shimmering on the water. Sager is the south-east trade winds. Many boats used this wind; it helps their sailing mast to sail that journey.”
Aboriginal weather knowledge
Aboriginal people distinguish between more than just four seasons, for example, the Dharawal people of NSW have seasons for ‘hot and dry’, ‘wet becoming cooler’, ‘cold, frosty, short days’, ‘cold and windy’, ‘cool, getting warmer’, and ‘warm and wet’.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has published a calendar showing Indigenous Weather Knowledge for each of their seasons. It currently has many entries for the NT, but also for WA and NSW.