The Dreaming lies at the heart of
Aboriginal spirituality and hence is
fundamental to all Aboriginal cultures and
The Dreaming is term used to label all
knowledge and understanding in
The Dreaming is inextricably linked to
The Dreaming includes explanations of
the formation of different aspects of
The Dreaming is communicated through
art, song, dance, story, ritual and kinship
The Dreaming is a metatemporal
concept, that is, it incorporates the past,
present and future as a complete and
Kinship ties identify a complex system of
belonging, relationships and
responsibilities within a clan that are
based on the Dreaming.
Kinship is determined by both family
relationships and a person's totem and is
thus a connection with the ancestor
spirits, land and Dreaming.
“Look all around all you see is my family”
Bob Randall Kanyini 2005
Aboriginal spirituality is communicated
through things such as art, story, dance,
Totems link Aboriginal people to a
particular animal which is the
representation of an ancestral spirit being.
Totems carry with them ceremonial/ritual
responsibilities - these are most
commonly called balance rites.
Obligations to the land and people
A sacred site is the land upon which
particular event in the Dreaming took
The identity of an Aboriginal person is
intimately connected with that piece of
Ceremonies and ritual are linked to
Dreaming Stories/events linked to the land
As the land is a resting place for ancestral
spirit beings, there are ritual
responsibilities connected with sacred
Separation from land
Separation from kinship groups
The Stolen Generation
The impact of dispossession has
been enormous and
The loss of land amounts to a loss
of identity and the burden of not
being able to fulﬁl ritual
The loss of land has destroyed the
system of totemic responsibilities.
The loss of language has
made it impossible to pass
on beliefs in an authentic
The separation of families
has destroyed the kinship
system and has led to a loss
Protection policies had the stated
aim of removing Aboriginal people
from unsuitable environments and
placing them in the protection of
the state by detaining them in
homes or on missions or reserves.
The intent of these policies was to
isolate Aboriginal people from the
rest of the community until such
time as their culture died out.
The protection policies saw large
number of children separated from
The breaking up of families and
removal from traditional lands had
enormous detrimental impacts on
the maintenance of traditional
Land, language, totems, kinship and
ceremonies were all signiﬁcantly
Assimilation policies followed on
from protection policies and led to
further degradation of Aboriginal
The aim of assimilation policies was
to take Aboriginal people, particularly
those who were ‘half caste’ and have
them assimilated into the white
community so that their
‘Aboriginality’ would be forgotten.
The term ‘Stolen Generation’
refers to the Aboriginal children
who were removed from their
homes between 1900 and 1972
by the Government and church
missionaries in an attempt to
assimilate these children into
Many Aboriginal children suffered
maltreatment, sexual exploitation,
inhumane working conditions and
degrading forms of humiliation in
their "adopted" homes.
The prohibition on traditional
Aboriginal practices meant that
land, language, totems, kinship and
ceremonies were all detrimentally
The beginnings of the modern land
rights movement is usually attributed
to the Wave Hill Mob who went on
strike for better conditions on a
Northern Territory cattle station at
Eventually after a protracted dispute,
the Whitlam Federal Government
passed the ﬁrst land rights legislation in
Land rights legislation beneﬁts a very
small percentage of Aboriginal people.
Native title refers to communal or
individual rights or interests of
Aboriginal people or Torres Strait
Islanders in relation to land or waters.
In June 1992 the High Court of
Australia ruled in favour of an action
brought by Eddie Mabo on behalf of the
Murray Island people.
The court ruled that Australia was
indeed an occupied land at the time of
British settlement and that the notion
of Terra Nullius - "land belonging to
no one" - was false in regard to the
situation in Australia.
It further ruled that under certain
circumstances a form of title known as
"Native Title" existed under Australian law.
In order to claim Native Title, it had to be
proved that continuous links with the land
had been maintained since before 1788
and that the Native Title had not been
extinguished as with freehold title.
In 1996 the High Court ruled in favour
of the Wik people who claimed that
Leasehold Title may not automatically
extinguish Native Title.
The High Court ruled that in certain
circumstances Native Title and
Leasehold Title could co-exist and that
in areas of dispute the interests of the
Leasehold Title holder would prevail.
In response to pressure from investors
in rural Australia the Howard Federal
Government prepared legislation to
amend the Native Title Act and prevent
The legislation was called the Native
Title Amendment Act and was
commonly referred to as the 10 Point
The main feature of the legislation was to
transfer from the Federal Government to
the various State Governments the
power to upgrade the title from
Leasehold Title to Freehold Title thus
extinguishing Native Title.
Land rights are of critical importance in
relation to Aboriginal spirituality, because
the Dreaming is inextricably connected
with the land.
The land is the resting place for ancestral
There are special responsibilities attached
to sacred sites such as ceremonies etc.
The identity of an Aboriginal person is
inextricably linked to the land and hence
the land is like a mother for the people.
Removal from land means none of the
afore mentioned points can exist.
Native Title claims are vital to the
continuation of the link to the land.