Posts Tagged ‘australia’

The Indigenous People of Australia

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
The mysterious Ayers Rock in the heart of the Outback

The mysterious Ayers Rock in the heart of the Outback

The Aborigines of Australia have a long and fascinating history that has been connected to the Australian landscape for thousands of years. Believed to have arrived in the region about 40,000 years ago, the indigenous tribes are actually full of diversity. There are over 500 distinct groups, each with their own culture and belief systems. Indigenous people make up 2% of Australia’s population – about 400,000 souls.

While each Aboriginal group is unique, they share a unified connection to the land and to their spirituality. Their sense of the creation of the world begins with “The Dreamtime” era. This sacred moment in time was when the animal and human spirits rose from the land to create the world we know today. These ”Dreaming” beliefs explain how and why humans behave in certain ways, why the birds in western Australia have different colors than the ones in the southern region, or how the soul resides outside a human body as a spirit-child until it is initiated to human form and birthed by a mother. These creation stories connect the physical world to the human world to the spiritual world in a holistic worldview that cannot be divided.

Every world culture has its own spiritual beliefs that help create social structures, common laws, and even food taboos to keep balance in the natural environment. The Aborigines are no different in that respect, but they have retained their belief systems through traumatic colonial rule and devastating disease that decimated their populations. Despite these formidable obstacles, their strong sense of spirituality and cultural continuity has allowed their Dreaming traditions to be passed from generation to generation.

Meet the indigenous people of Australia and hear their Dreamtime stories and legends on our Exploring Australia and New Zealand experience.

What was your most spiritual moment while traveling the world? Share Below.

New Year's Eve in Sydney, Australia

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

One of the first places in the world to celebrate the arrival of 2010 is Sydney, in eastern Australia. In honor of the occassion, they host a huge fireworks celebration, illuminating the entire city. Check out this video from last year. Happy New Year to all!

Video: Natural Wonders of Australia and New Zealand

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Home to thousands of rare creatures in one of the most treasured (and vulnerable) ecosystems in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is on all of our life-lists. Check out some video of what’s in store for visitors to the region, stretching some 1,600 miles through the Coral Sea.

Don’t miss your chance to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Click here for travel options with Smithsonian.

What great natural wonder have you always wanted to visit? Share below.

Australia and Aborigines: Dispatch 9 from Extraordinary Cultures Tour

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Richard Kurin is the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture here at the Smithsonian Institution. He is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of knowledge systems, folk arts, museums, and development. He is currently Study Leader on our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey Around the World tour, and will be blogging periodically while traveling. This post is ninth in a series. To see the other posts, click here.

Dateline: Australia

Kangaroo with joey in her pouch. There are an estimated 60 million kangaroos in Australia—where they are often regarded as vermin. Photo: Richard Kurin

Kangaroo with joey in her pouch. There are an estimated 60 million kangaroos in Australia—where they are often regarded as vermin. Photo: Richard Kurin

Australia’s northeast coast is a tropical rainforest, part of the state of Queensland, and home to a number of Aboriginal peoples and those of the Torres Straits. The Smithsonian has had a strong fellowship program with Queensland and a recent history of scholarly and professional exchange. The head of the Woodford Folk Festival was a fellow at the Smithsonian, I’ve collaborated with the museum studies program at the University of Queensland, and a number of tropical biologists have gone back and forth between the Great Barrier Reef and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in an effort to understand the formation, vitality and challenges to coral reefs.

Our group meets Malcolm Turner, the director of operations for the Great Barrier Reef, who explains the ecology and conservation issues for the largest living thing on the planet. He tells the group that cyclones, fresh water run-off, and most importantly, global warming, are threatening the reef, as it heads out for a day of snorkeling, diving, and just enjoyment of this natural treasure.

Aborigines Harold Taley and Shaun Creek give our travelers a brief introduction to Aboriginal use of the natural flora. Harold has our group marvel at the soapy cleanser made from leaves; he demonstrates nut-cracking, and the use of various medicinal herbs and vines. Our folks are very impressed with the obvious knowledge embedded in aboriginal ways. Shaun then shows us how he plays the didgeridoo—typically made from eucalyptus naturally hollowed out by termites. On this wind instrument he produces a sound that resonates deeply, seems so primordial, almost mystical.