Australia: Aborigines                                                        

  • Before Europeans settled in Australia 200 years ago, the land was owned by the Aboriginal people.

  • Today they make up only one percent of the population, but they continue to make a vital and growing contribution to Australian culture.

  • The land of Australia is sacred to the Aboriginal people. They’ve lived there for more than 40,000 years and, though they have no written history, tribal storytellers have passed down their religion — the spirit of the land — for generations. Many of these legends are devoted to a mystical period known as the Dreamtime, which is kept alive through paintings and ritual dances called corroborees.

  • Aborigines have a rich tradition in art and their ancient cave paintings and carvings are now among the nation’s cultural treasures. A visual recording of history is found throughout the Northern Territory. From the tropical areas of Kakadu National Park to the desert region of Ayers Rock and the Olgas, visitors see Aboriginal art dating back thousands of years. Some of the meaning of the Aboriginal art remains a mystery.



  • The Aborigines recorded their history by painting pictures on the walls of caves. Hunts and tribal dances known as “corroborees” were some of the big events recorded this way. We call these visual records “pictographs” (photo). You too can tell a story by making a pictograph of special events in your own life.

  • What you will need:

    • Drawing paper

    • Pencil and eraser

    • Thin paintbrush

    • Paint

  • Think about some important events that have happened in your life. Special times might include when you received a pet, started school, moved to a new house, rode a two-wheeled bike for the first time, etc.


Draw pictures that reflect these events in your life the order in which they happened.

  • Since human hands are commonly featured in Aboriginal art, you might want to “sign” your pictograph with an imprint of your own hand.