The Importance of Land and Country to Australian Aboriginals

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For Aboriginal Australians, the land has a special significance that is rarely understood by those of European descent. The land, or country, does not only sustain Aborigines in material ways, such as providing food and shelter, it also plays a major role in their spiritual lives. As Rose put it, "Land provides for my physical needs and spiritual needs." (1992, p.106). To use Rose 's own term, to Aboriginals the land is a 'nourishing terrain '. (1996, p.7).

The basic tenets of Aboriginal spirituality are inextricably bound to the land.

"For Indigenous Australians the land is the core of all spirituality." (www.dreamtime.net.au, 2003, p.1). All land is important in some way, but some places are more sacred than others. These 'sacred
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(Edwards, 2002, p.60)

Aboriginal spirituality has it that the spirits of unborn children (jilmas) are present in the land, usually in sacred waterholes. By dreaming, the child 's father brings its spirit into the mother 's body. Children are not born from the physical joining of the parents, but from the spiritual joining of both the parents and the land. From this, we can see that Aboriginals attribute their very existence to the land.

Aboriginals believe that they own the land only inasmuch as the land owns them. "The sacred myths were like a title to land, a charter to ownership...even less sacred stories contained this message...as a local, territorial centredness, a territorial focus." (Saxby, 1979, p.146). Aboriginal myths connected the people to the land, and the land to the people. This was a view that was alien to the European colonisers of Australia, who did not understand the Aboriginals ' connection to the land, and the vital importance it had for all tribes.

Sacred sites are also important in that they define particular Aboriginal countries.

Although they shared physical and cultural features

and had ties of affinity, trade and religious co-operation,

these societies were distinguished by geography, language

and culture. There is no evidence that the indigenes

perceived themselves as a homogenous group in the way

that Europeans
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