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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Painting the Canning Stock Route

Here is a route that is on my list of 4 wheel drive adventures I want to complete before I die:

AUSTRALIA’S ICONIC CANNING STOCK Route, created in 1906, runs for 1800 km through WA from the Kimberley to Wiluna in the state’s mid-west. The history of this famous cattle track has typically been told from a colonial perspective, but a new exhibition at the National Museum of Australia seeks to retell the story through Aboriginal eyes and voices.

“The Canning Stock Route (CSR) is a place where Indigenous and non-Indigenous histories intersect. This exhibition tells the story of the recovery of the Indigenous histories,” says Michael Pickering, head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program at the museum. “For many years the story of the stock route was represented as a white man’s story. This exhibition, and the collection that forms its heart, allows us to recognise that its history goes back much further and is held in the hearts and minds of the Aboriginal people of the region.”

Alongside stories and objects, the exhibition – called Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route – features paintings by traditional owners of the land which combine both traditional and contemporary styles of art. These paintings reflect the stories that Aboriginal elders have passed on of their experiences as stockmen and other interactions with ‘white fellas’ during the early days of the stock route, while others are interpretations by younger artists.


World’s longest stock route

Surveyor Alfred Canning led an expedition which created the route in 1906, with the ultimate goal of driving cattle from Halls Creek, in the Kimberley, to market in the Kalgoorlie goldfields. It is the longest stock route in the world and runs though the Little Sandy, Gibson, Great Sandy and Tanami deserts, passing 52 wells bored by Canning’s team. (See a map of the CSR)

Earlier expeditions to survey the CSR had failed, but Canning set off with a team of seven men, 23 camels, two ponies, 2.5 tonnes of provisions and 1440 litres of water. All up, they trekked 4000 kilometres over 14 months. Stock routes were created as defined paths along which cattle were driven from pastoral land to markets. They allowed access to waters and grasslands to keep the animals fed.

“There is history – an indigenous history – and it needs to be told in an Indigenous way so that the wider audience can feel both worlds,” says 33-year old co-curator of the exhibition Murungkurr Terry Murray. Terry says that some local Aboriginal people volunteered their assistance to Canning’s team to help them locate waterholes and were later employed as stockmen. Others were captured and put in neck chains and force-fed salt beef or saltwater until they became so thirsty that they had no choice but to lead the team to water.

Some of the elders remember the first European contact they had as children in the desert. Terry tells how people couldn’t believe their eyes and they ran to hide when they first saw white people, thinking they had seen a ghost.  [Australian Geographic]

You can read the rest at the link.

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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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Picture of the Day: Aboriginal Shopping

Via National Geographic.

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Racism Activist Banned Aboriginals from His Home

I don’t see any hypocrisy in this guy campaigning for Aboriginal rights, but at the same time preventing possible sex offenders from staying in his home:

A LONG-TIME campaigner against racism says he
banned his Aboriginal relatives and friends from staying in his home
for fear of his two children being sexually assaulted.

Stephen Hagan told The Australian
his decision a decade ago initially caused resentment, but he felt it
necessary to ensure the safety of his children, Stephen Jr, now 16, and
daughter Jayde, 13.

“I chose not to have people, in particular
men in town on business, sleeping under the same roof as my young
children,” the University of Southern Queensland academic said.

“I took that decision principally because I was not fully cognisant of their past inclinations around children.”

The former Aborigine of the Year – who fought a successful decade-long campaign to rename the ES “Nigger” Brown Pavilion at the Toowoomba Sports Ground – also refused to lend money.  [The Australian]

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Picture of the Day: Kimberly Rock Art

Via Australian Geographic

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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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