Aboriginal Australians, also referred to as Aboriginal people, are people whose ancestors were indigenous to the Australian continent. Their history is thought to have spanned 40,000 to 45,000 years, although some estimates have put the figure at up to 80,000 years before European settlement. For most of this time, the Indigenous Australians lived as nomads and as hunter-gatherers with a strong dependence on the land and their agriculture for survival.
The origin of Aboriginal peoples in Australia has been the subject of intense speculation since the nineteenth century. Until recently, no theory of migration had gained wide acceptance. There is no clear or accepted origin of these people although they are believed to be among the earliest human migrations out of Africa. Although they likely migrated to Australia through Southeast Asia they are not demonstrably related to any known Asian or Polynesian population.
British settlement and its impact
Indeginous Australians suffered enormously from the British settelment which started in 1788. One direct consequence was a wave of European epidemic diseases such as chickenpox, smallpox, influenza and measles, which spread in advance of the frontier of settlement. Another consequence was appropriation of land and water resources. The settlers took the view that Indigenous Australians were nomads with no concept of land ownership, who could be driven off land wanted for farming or grazing and who would be just as happy somewhere else. In fact the loss of traditional lands, food sources and water resources was usually fatal, particularly to communities already weakened by disease. Additionally, Indigenous Australians groups had a deep spiritual and cultural connection to the land, so that in being forced to move away from traditional areas, cultural and spiritual practices necessary to the cohesion and well-being of the group could not be maintained.
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