The Australian Aborigine, long thought to be some primitive throw back from prehistoric time, is nothing but another class or distinction in a vast world of diverse cultures throughout Australia. They are contemporaries with any other modern society, but with different values and means of living. The economic structure of the Australian Aborigines has evolved from a hunter-gatherer existence to blending and adapting to a more sophisticated economic environment.
Australian Aborigine and Hunters and Gatherers
The Australian Aborigine began as hunters and food gatherers.The following were common characteristics of the Australian Aborigine:
- They were prone to moving about, therefore they built impermanent dwellings.
- Their relationship with their natural environment was a special one due to their dependency on it.
- The emphasis on material wealth is virtually unseen in the world of the Aborigine.
- Their rudimentary tools and implements are their only necessity, in part because of their vast knowledge and skills of the land.
This form of existence molded their dominion over their surroundings so there was no need to alter it. "It is perhaps for this reason, more than any other that Europeans have disparaged the Aborigines and ranked them low in the social scale."
Australian Aborigines lived according to what their needs and the needs of their family were. The basis of their economic existence consisted of a spear thrower and a handful of spears. The Aborigine's innate knowledge of the land and the habits of the creatures dwelling in it, was perceived as important as any physical tool would be. The Aborigine was very intimate with his surroundings to the point of being a most clever hunter. The ability to track animals, imitate animal sounds, understand wind changes, and interpret animal markings was extremely keen due to practice of these skills on a continually basis.
Australian Aborigine and Beliefs
Not only could the Aborigine utilize hunting skills to perfection, they were remarkably familiar with the plants that supplemented their diet. They did not garden specifically, but instead familiarized themselves with the growing seasons of the naturalized bush foods. The Aborigines' thoughts on gardening were summed up in essence by the words of an Arnhem Land woman "You people go to all that trouble, working and planting seed, but we don't have to do that. All these things are there for us, The Ancestral Beings left them for us. In the end, you depend on the sun and the rain just the same as we do, but the difference is that we just have to go and collect the food when it is ripe. We don't have all this other trouble."