The Torres Strait islanders live between Australia and New Guinea. These natives are believed to have arrived nearly 70,000 years ago. The term 'Australian Aborigines' includes members of different communities and societies, with unique cultures.
These natives speak over 250 languages and dialects, of which 20 have been declared endangered. The aboriginal society is not a single social entity and they differ in modes of subsistence, culture and language.
Aboriginal means 'earliest known'. They possess culture and heritage and a history distinct from other groups around the world. The native language is not known to be related to any of the languages in other parts of the world. Today, there are fewer than 200 indigenous languages that are in use.
Linguists study Australian languages as Pama Nyungan and non-Pama Nyungan. The Pama-Nyungan languages comprise the majority of a family of related languages, while those not related are categorized arnd studied as the non-Pama Nyunga.
The group of languages are believed to be the outcome of a long and intimate contact. A common feature is that they display special speech registers that are intimate in use only in the presence of relatives.
The aborigines display a large number of divisions between tribes and the linguist grouping pattern. On account of this, there are subsequent varieties of diverse cultural practices, sometimes showing signs of similarity. Religious demography census reports that 72% of aborigines practiced a 'form' of Christianity, while 16% did not profess any religion.
Today the community is witnessing an increase in the number of members following Islam. Among them, religious values and oral traditions are based upon reverence for the islands and the want-sufficing nature of all inhabitants. Earlier, the different groups exhibited individual culture, belief and language.
This relationship between the people and their environment is most visible in the use of earthly colors in the paintings, most of which are made from ochre.
Things have changed and today the modern artists continue the tradition, but with the use of the versatile modern materials. The watercolor paintings of the Hermannsburg School, the dot art paintings and those by Albert Namatjira are a matter of pride for them.
In fact, not only does original aboriginal art have a lobby of international patrons, but it also is a large source of income for some of the communities. Their poetry delves deep within the realms of sacred ferver to daily reverence to Mother Earth.
The 'Three Faces of Love', The Honey Ant men's love song' and 'Little Eva at Moonlight Creek' are some great compilations.
The community is mostly urbanized now. The health and economic difficulties are substantial, with adverse ratings on the social indicators like education, unemployment and poverty.
There is now a political shift, more of mutual obligation rather than self determination. The world at large has realized that it is time to recognize their distinctiveness of identity and help them to preserve their heritage.
Among the names of the Prominent Australian Aborigines are names of the former captain of the Australian National Rugby League Team, Arthur Beeton; Olympic athlete Cathy Freeman and actor David Gulpilil, among a myriad of others.