Were the Ancestral Aborigines the Greatest Explorers Ever?

Much research has been done in recent years to determine how and when Australia’s Aborigines populated the continent and this latest development shows that the Aborigines populated Australia longer than any other race of people on Earth:

In an exciting development, an international team of researchers has, for the first time, pieced together the human genome from an Aboriginal Australian.

The results, published in the journal Science, re-interpret the prehistory of our species.

By sequencing the genome, the researchers demonstrate that Aboriginal Australians descend directly from an early human expansion into Asia that took place some 70,000 years ago, at least 24,000 years before the population movements that gave rise to present-day Europeans and Asians. The results imply that modern day Aboriginal Australians are in fact the direct descendents of the first people who arrived in Australia as early as 50,000 years ago.  (……………….)

The genome, shown to have no genetic input from modern European Australians, reveals that the ancestors of the Aboriginal man separated from the ancestors of other human populations some 64-75,000 years ago. Aboriginal Australians therefore descend directly from the earliest modern explorers, people who migrated into Asia before finally reaching Australia about 50,000 years ago. In showing this, the study establishes Aboriginal Australians as the population with the longest association with the land on which they live today. [Science Daily]

It is amazing to think about what an ambitious journey it would have been all those tens of thousands of years ago to walk from Africa to Australia?  It makes me wonder how many decades it took for the ancestral Aborigines to reach Australia?  One thing is for sure is that the migration to Australia has to be considered one of the greatest feats of human exploration ever:

Professor Eske Willerslev from the University of Copenhagen, who headed the study, explains: “Aboriginal Australians descend from the first human explorers. While the ancestors of Europeans and Asians were sitting somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, yet to explore their world further, the ancestors of Aboriginal Australians spread rapidly; the first modern humans traversing unknown territory in Asia and finally crossing the sea into Australia. It was a truly amazing journey that must have demanded exceptional survival skills and bravery.”

It gets me wondering why they kept migrating towards Australia?  Was there religious reasons perhaps that caused them to keep moving?  Could the walkabout culture of the present Aborigines be a cultural remnant from their ancient ancestors?  I find this to bel interesting stuff to ponder.

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Poll Shows that Australians Increasingly Frustrated With Aborigines

Based off the few years I spent living in Australia recently, this sounds about right to me:

Australians are losing interest in the plight of Aborigines, a survey found Monday, days after the prime minister urged the country’s indigenous people to take more control of their lives.

The Australian Reconciliation Barometer survey, gauging relations between Aborigines and their mostly white counterparts, showed a drop in the number of people who considered the relationship important.

The poll showed that Australians increasingly blame Aborigines, who suffer disproportionately high rates of disease, imprisonment, unemployment and alcohol and substance abuse, for their own problems.

The first such poll conducted since a government apology to Aborigines in 2008 for wrongs suffered since white settlement in 1788 found that those who saw relations as poor now outnumbered those who thought them good.

Less than half thought things were improving.

More than eight out of 10 respondents among the 1,220 non-Aborigines who took part said a lack of personal responsibility was to blame for the problems experienced by indigenous people, Australia’s most marginalised group.  [AFP]

Most Australians I know I very frustrated with the Aborigines because in spite of massive funding for government programs to improve their quality of life, nothing improves.  A perfect example of this is the government housing that the government provides for the Aborigines.  If you ever get a chance to see an Aboriginal settlement you would be shocked on how trashed these homes are.  There are literally holes in the roof to let out the smoke from bonfires started from inside the house.

The substance abuse problem is probably the biggest thing that is destroying Aboriginal culture today.  For example it is shocking the amount of stoned Aborigines that can be seen lying in the dry Todd River bed in Alice Springs.  The problems go on and on and despite the historical wrongs committed against the Aborigines I am leaning more towards the Australian perspective that now in 2011 that the biggest problem with the Aborigines is no longer racism of white Australia, but instead the failure of the Aborigines to take an honest look at themselves.

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Russian Figure Skaters Criticized By Aborigines for Olympic Routine

Having lived in Australia I can definitely attest to the fact about how important traditional Aboriginal dance is to them and I am not surprised they are upset with these Russian figure skaters:

This year, the theme for the ice dancing original dance was folk dancing. The dance was supposed to represent the “flavor” of one country or another.

Some skating pairs, like Israelis Roman and Alexandra Zaretsky and Georgians Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze, chose folk dances that represented their own country. Others chose to honor other cultures. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir did a flamenco, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White did an Indian dance, and Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin did an Australian Aboriginal dance.

When the Russian pair did the Aboriginal dance at the European Championships in January, they drew criticism from Aboriginal leaders who found the dance and costumes offensive. Domnina and Shabalin toned down their costumes and removed their face paint, but made no changes to their Aboriginal dance.

The dance they did was more likely their interpretation of Aboriginal dance, though they claimed to have done research. Watching the dance Sunday night, one can understand why Aboriginal leaders were offended.

At times, Shabalin led Domnina around by her ponytail. They mugged, stuck out their tongues and mimicked the hand over mouth gesture that was once associated with American Indians. (See it here and judge for yourself.) After the dance ended, the crowd gave the Russians what could generously be called a lukewarm reception.  [Yahoo Sports]

I watched the video of their routine and I have to say that they just looked ridiculous, but watch the video and draw your own conclusions.

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Picture of the Day: The Hottest Aboriginal Women I Have Ever Seen

RAW 2008 Reflects the beauty and Diversity of Australias Aboriginal People. This calendar is not like any that have been produced in the past as its not a girls in bikinis focused calendar, its about the rich culture we have in Australia, and apart of our vision to show case Aboriginal Australia to the world RAW will also feature Aboriginal creations from jewellery to fashion design including styles ranging from traditional to modern to swimwear.

"RAW 2008 Reflects the beauty and Diversity of Australia's Aboriginal People. This calendar is not like any that have been produced in the past as it's not a girls in bikinis focused calendar, its about the rich culture we have in Australia, and apart of our vision to show case Aboriginal Australia to the world RAW will also feature Aboriginal creations from jewellery to fashion design including styles ranging from traditional to modern to swimwear".

Via Birra News

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More Aborigines Enter Mixed Race Marriages Than Ever Before

Depending on how you look at this, I guess you could say that Aborigines are integrating more into Australian society:

MOST Aborigines are partnering with non-Aboriginal people for the first time in history, research has revealed.

Greater opportunity for interaction is believed to be the main cause of the trend, which raises concerns about Aboriginal culture being lost in future generations.

In 2006, 52 per cent of partnered indigenous men and 55 per cent of partnered indigenous women were married to or living with non-indigenous partners, Monash University’s People and Place journal said.

Those living in cities with university degrees and higher income earners were most likely to “marry out”.

Although Aborigines are still subjected to deep prejudice, new research shows that a majority of Aboriginal men and women nationwide are now married to non-indigenous partners and eight in ten Aboriginal people living in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane are married “outside the mob”.

The report said this could be seen as a good thing because it shows cultures mixing and contributes to a diverse and tolerant society.

But it could also be considered negative because it signals the dissolution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bloodlines and culture.

Report co-author Bob Birrell said there was still very little outmarriage in remote indigenous communities.

 ”It indicates that unlike the United States, where almost 90 per cent of blacks marry blacks, the social divide that was there 20 or 30 years ago has almost disappeared in Australia,” he said.  [The Daily Telegraph]

I think a key fact that should be highlighted is how the Aboriginals moving into the cities are receiving better education and more chance to interact with mainstream Australian society.  Over the long run I think this is better for the Aborigines instead of encouraging a welfare system that keeps them isolated in remote Aboriginal communities with little chance to interact with greater Australian society. 

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Aboriginal Group Protests Mt. Niggerhead Name Change

Well at least they are renaming this Victorian mountain which when I first saw it on a map I couldn’t believe it was named that:

AN Aboriginal group plans to sue the Victorian Government for ignoring its heritage in the renaming of Mount Niggerhead, a mountain in the Alpine National Park.

For decades, the 1846m Mt Niggerhead in the state’s northeast has been at the centre of a heated debate about its name.

State Environment Minister Gavin Jennings pledged last week to rename the rocky outcrop Jaithmathangs, after one of the traditional languages of the Bogong High Plains.

But another Aboriginal nation, the Dhudhuroas, says the peak is part of their country and the proposed new name is just as offensive to them as Mt Niggerhead.

“It’s a bit like renaming Australia as England,” Gary Murray, co-chair of the Dhudhuroa Native Title Group, said.

“Jennings might as well have taken any old name from Arnhem Land – it’s bulls**t.

“This is offensive to our people. The Jaithmathangs are from the other side of Omeo, which is miles away. The name is linguistically and culturally inappropriate.” [AAP]

Mt. Niggerhead is actually very close to the Mt. Hotham ski resort and easily visible from the Great Alpine Road. In the above picture you can see Mt. Niggerhead in the background from when I hiked one of Australia’s best trails The Razorback.

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Aborigine Origins Identified?

A mystery here on Australia that continues to strike debate among Australian scientists and the Australian community in general is what are the origins of the native Aborigines of Australia?  It is pretty much agreed by everyone that the natives on the island of New Guinea migrated to the Australian mainland some 40,000-50,000 years ago when the Ice Age lowered sea levels enough where the island of New Guinea was connected by a land bridge to the York Peninsula in Queensland.  This same lowering of ocean levels allowed the Aborigines to occupy Tasmania as well.  Now the big question is how did the Aborigines get to New Guinea to begin with?  The black natives on New Guinea and the Australian aborigines share no genetic relations to the Asian and Polynesian peoples of southeast Asia that they are surrounded by.  Well some scientists believe the Aborigines arrived in Australia from Africa:

Australia along with the rest of the world was first settled by a single group of settlers who left Africa more than 55,000 years, new DNA research suggests.

Once there, they apparently evolved in relative isolation, developing genetic characteristics and technology found nowhere else until the arrival of the first European settlers.

The uniqueness of Australia’s ancient Aborigines and archaeological finds on the continent have previously threatened to undermine the “out of Africa” hypothesis of human origins favoured by most experts.

But the latest research by geneticists at the University of Cambridge reinforces the theory that all modern human beings belonging to the species Homo sapiens are descended from a small number of Africans who left their home between 55,000 and 60,000 years ago.

If the Aborigines are linked genetically to a single group of settlers from Africa how in the world did they get to Australia?  I seriously doubt people back then were skilled enough to build boats to sail to Australia which means they had to walk and make short boat trips between islands in Indonesia to reach Australia.  So how did black Africans simply walk through lands filled with Asians and Polynesians to get to New Guinea and Australia?  It is a fascinating question that will probably continue to perplex researchers for some time to come.

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