Aborigines are the indigenous people of Australia, much like Native Americans are the indigenous people of the USA and Inuits are the natives of Canada. The exact number of Aborigines is unknown, but current census reports estimate around 350,000 people, or 1.5% of Australians.
Researchers believe Australian Aborigines migrated from Asia about 70,000 years ago. There were once 200,000 to 500,000 Aborigines, who lived in 500-600 different groups and spoke approximately 200-250 languages. Due to the number of languages, it was not uncommon for Aborigines to speak more than one tribal language.
Although there were differences between the Aboriginal tribes, emphasis on community, storytelling, art and spirituality were commonalties. Although there was some warring between groups, trading was much more common.
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With the arrival of British sailors and settlers, starting in 1788, the process of elimination and assimilation began. Fighting and disease killed thousands of Aborigines, and totally decimated those groups living in Tasmania.
It wasn’t until 1967 that Aborigines were given full citizenship rights. Limited land rights were granted in 1972, although debates about ownership still continue.