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Related to Australians: Indigenous Australians
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) The native people of Australia, known as the aborigines. In the late 18th century they lived all over the continent and numbered between 250,000 and 300,000 persons. The Australians were subdivided into more than 500 tribes that were linguistically and racially distinct from the other peoples of the world. The best studied tribes are the Kurnai, Narrinyeri, and Kamilaroi in the southeast; the Kabi and Waka in the east; the Dieri, Arabana, Aranda, and Warramunga in the central part; and the Nyul-Nyul and Kariera in the northwest. Each tribe spoke a different dialect. They were nomadic hunters and food gatherers. As late as the 19th century, the Australians lived under a primitive communal social system and used stone implements similar to Mesolithic implements. Intertribal bartering was widely developed. Each tribe consisted of several territorial and economically independent groups, which were called local groups. In addition, a tribe was subdivided into groups that regulated marriage and sex relations within the tribe: phratres, clans, and marriage classes (sections). Religion was based on totemism and different forms of magic. There are several hypotheses about the origin of the Australians. Most likely they migrated to Australia from Asia only in the late Paleolithic age. This hypothesis is supported by skulls found in Australia (the Keilor, Cohuna, and Talgai skulls), by the presence of anthropological types related to the Australians among the present-day population of southeast Asia (the Vedda, Dravidians, Kubu, and others), and by archeological evidence. Anthropological, ethnologic, and linguistic research on present-day Australians points to a common origin of all the Australian tribes.

European colonization, which started in the late 18th century, was accompanied by mass extermination of the Australian aborigines, who were driven into the barren regions in the interior of Australia. In 1966 there were only 40,000 Australians left. Descendents of the former tribes are found mainly in western and northern Australia. Some Australian aborigines live on reservations and in settlements around Christian missions; others work in agriculture. The bad economic situation of the present-day Australians is exacerbated by racial discrimination, which also affects the rapidly growing population of mixed blood (more than 40,000 in 1966).

(2) The nation that forms the bulk of the population of Australia. Numbering more than 11.5 million persons (1966), they speak an Australian dialect of English. The Australians are Christians—Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. Most of them are descendents of migrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland. The settlement of Australia with people from the British Isles began in 1788. In that year, the first party of convicts landed on the shores of Australia and the first British settlement, Port Jackson (the future Sydney), was founded. Voluntary migration from Britain became fairly large only in the 1920’s, when sheep raising began to develop rapidly in Australia. After the discovery of gold, there was a large influx of immigrants from Britain and other countries. The population of Australia almost trebled in ten years (1851 to 1861) and surpassed 1 million. In the second half of the 19th century, industry began to develop gradually in Australia and a national bourgeoisie and a working class arose. In 1900 the Australian colonies united into a federation. The consolidation of the Australians into a nation took great strides in the first decades of the 20th century, when the national economy of Australia became firmly established. The culture of the Australians is based on the culture of the migrants from the British Isles.


Narody Avstralii i Okeanii. Moscow, 1956.
Mukhin, G. I. Avstraliia i Okeaniia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
McCarthy, F. D. Australia’s Aborigines: Their Life and Culture. Melbourne, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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