Aboriginal culture in South Australia is rich and diverse – in fact, Aboriginal heritage in Australia can be tracked back as far as 60,000 years, making it one of the oldest living cultures in the world.
It is important to appreciate the significance that Aboriginal people (Anangu) place on their culture, family and country, and how these elements are connected. Many activities, places, flora and fauna in the Alinytjara Wilurara region have particular uses or are of spiritual importance, and access to them may be restricted.
Family or ‘kin’ is integral to Anangu and Anangu culture. Kinship extends well beyond immediate family ties and provides social guidance around behaviour, relationships and obligations to other community members.
Social structures in Aboriginal communities also dictate who can speak on matters and how messages are communicated. Both knowledge and physical sites can be considered ‘secret’ or ‘sacred’, where information about and access to them is only given to particular groups – such as for men’s business and women’s business. This information is passed through generations using initiations or other types of traditional ceremonies. As such, different community members have varying levels of understanding about their culture and country.
There are a number of communities in the Alinytjara Wilurara region.
Aboriginal people in the region have very strong cultural and spiritual links to the land and sea. Their relationship with the environment and how it is related to family origins, traditional knowledge and practices is central to their lives and creates their connection to country.
The significance of this connection and the role it plays in the lives of Anangu should not be under-estimated. The responsibility to care for the land, now and into the future is given at birth. Unlike non-Aboriginal people who ‘own’ land and use it for their benefit, Anangu have a deeper connection and feel that the land ‘owns’ them and that their lives and spirituality are intertwined with it. Anangu connection to country is an integral part of their sense of identity and feeling of belonging.
Aboriginal management of country
Traditionally, Aboriginal people were nomadic people, moving to different locations in search of seasonal food, water and shelter. Anangu were very good at reading weather patterns and understanding how this would affect their use of country. Their approach to land use and management meant that natural resources could be constantly renewed rather than being overused and exhausted.
Traditional use of plants and animals
- A variety of plants and animals, including insects, were considered important food sources.
- Trees and timber were used as building materials for shelter and tools.
- Various plants were used for building baskets and containers for collecting and storing food, water and other articles.
- Plant fibres, stones, shells and animals bones were used for constructing tools for hunting or ceremonial purposes.
- Wax from bees was used for sealing food and water containers, and as resin for making tools.
- Many plants were used for medicinal purposes – leaves and roots could be pounded for poultices, plants were boiled for consumption and aromatic oils, such as eucalyptus, were inhaled.