International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples: Aboriginal People of Australia

Aboriginal men
These men are playing traditional musical instruments. The long instrument is a didgeridoo. You play it by blowing in it. Aboriginal peoples of northern Australia developed the instrument. Now, people around the world play it.

August 9th is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The United Nations created the holiday in 1994 to honor indigenous people and cultures around the world. Indigenous people are the first people to live in an area.

Indigenous peoples have lived on the continent now known as Australia for more than 50,000 years. The Aboriginal peoples are one of two indigenous groups there. At one time, they lived all over Australia. They were hunters and gatherers who traveled in search of food. In some areas, people stayed in one place to grow crops. Aboriginal groups traded goods with other groups. They traded such items as kangaroo skin, pearl shells, and stone and timber.

Aboriginal peoples passed down knowledge through telling stories. This is how people learned about the landscape, places to find water, and the effects of the seasons on the plants and animals. But when settlers arrived from Europe, life changed for the aboriginals.

Many aboriginals died from diseases like smallpox and measles. There were fights between the Aboriginals and colonists. In 1856, colonies set up reserves for Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people were not able to travel from place to place. Their culture was destroyed.

Later, the government of Australia forced the Aboriginals to give up their way of life and have the same culture as the Europeans. Children were taken from their families and raised by white people.

In the 1960s, Aboriginal people finally got the right to vote. They were recognized as citizens. But they had been treated horribly for generations. The government of Australia finally admitted that they were wrong. In 1996, Australia had a National Reconciliation Week. Two years later, they had a National Sorry Day. Today, only 3 percent of the people who live in Australia are Aboriginal peoples. But people are learning more about their culture and traditions.

What Do You Think? Why do you think Australia has a National Reconciliation Week and a Sorry Day? What do you think people can do to make up for treating others so badly for a long time?

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