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Visiting Australia's aboriginals can be a wonderful experience. Australian aborigines are found throughout Australia in varying proportions. Indigenous Australians, the first Australians, have the greatest percentage of the population in the Northern Territory. Australian aboriginals became full fledged citizens in 1967. Australian aborigines have their own lands. You can't just show up and visit. You need secure an aboriginal land permits. In the Northern Territory, the Northern Land Council and Central Land Council. If you travel the Great Central Road, you'd need to secure aboriginal land permits from both the Nothern Territory and Western Australia.


Australian Aboriginals
the natives of Australia


"In the new millennium, it's hip to go native. You don't have to look far in Australia today to notice a superficial interest in the Aborginal condition. Yet when it comes to time to put up or shut up -- in other words, go to bed with an Aborginal or pay a hefty fee to buy some of their handicrafts or artwork -- the topic seems to change rather abruptly to the day's cricket scores or the number of beers you chugged last night."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

Looking for a didgeridoo?
Some fads catch on,  some don't.  When travelers visit South America, they want to learn to salsa and to rhumba and to get jiggy with the locals.  In Africa, it's not uncommon in the more laid-back rural areas for European girls to strip off their tops and walk topless with their African lovers, just as the African women are accustomed to doing.  Yet the trend to 'go Abo' just hasn't caught on fire.  In my year in Australia, I never saw a foreigner paired up with an Aboriginal.  The most Aboriginal anyone ever bothered to get was to buy a didgeridoo, an Aboriginal wind instrument, and play it during a break in a night of drinking.  Enough Aussies don't mind going Abo.  In 2001, 69% of married Aboriginals were married to non-Aboriginals. 

The truth is that most visitors to Australia won't ever encounter many ( or any) Aboriginals to ever be given the chance to embrace them.  Only a tiny percentage of the population, just 2.6%, is Aboriginal.

Broken down by Australian state and territory in 2006:

State/Territory % Aboriginals Aboriginal Population
Northern Territory 30.3 66,600
Western Australia 3 77,900
Queensland 3.4 146,400
New South Wales 2.1 148.200
South Australia 1.6 26,000
Victoria 0.6 30,800
Tasmania 3.4 16,900
Australian Capital Territory 1.2 4,000


Aboriginal flag of Australia

Bet you didn't know the Aboriginals even had a flag

Most tourists to Australia for a short term holiday (under a month) will restrict their visit to a few key touristic areas. Australian Aboriginal women Most commonly, tourists visit the east coast, from Cairns (Queensland) down to Sydney (New South Wales).  These states boast the highest totals of Aboriginals by absolute numbers but not by percentages.  I can state from personal experience that I have no strong recollection of seeing Aboriginals in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.  In South Australia I saw a few, but that was only after I got to the extreme northern part of the state, to Cooper Pedy.  Another popular tourist trip, the Great Ocean Road, extends from Melbourne to the Western edges of Victoria.  Some tourists continue straight onto Adelaide.  You're not going to run into Aboriginals here. 

As a general rule, the closer you get to the Northern Territory border from any state, the more Aboriginals you'll encounter.  The two states and one territory which share no border with the Northern Territory (Victoria, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory) have the least Aboriginals, and the southern part of South Australia, where over 80% of the South Australians live, has little, too.
Australia Aboriginals

Aboriginal Misconceptions

It's easy and also juvenile to romanticize disadvantaged groups.   Doug's Republic takes the time here to clear up any myths and misconceptions you may have about the Aboriginals of Australia.

  The Australian Aboriginals were like saintly priests before the Europeans showed up,  drinking only teas,Aboriginals and Victoria Bitter smoothies, and fresh fruit juices.   The Truth:  the Australian Aboriginals situation can be aptly compared to the indigenous peoples of North America, now known as Native Americans or American Indians, or the Maoris of New Zealand.  Each of these dark-skinned peoples had their own culture.  Europeans settled the territories, got the indigenous people interested in booze and drugs, seized their lands, and then made the rules.

Can you blame the Aboriginals for loving booze?  Who doesn't treasure a gin & tonic after a day's work or a fruity Singapore sling or mojito to start off the evening -- or morning, if you're real extreme?    The Aboriginals and the Native Americans didn't have the benefit of centuries of culture of drinking these particular drinks to integrate boozing into their own lifestyles.  Aboriginals were no strangers to alcohol, but the alcohol of their culture was weak and made from plants like pandanus and the purple orchid tree.   It wasn't 40% alcohol by volume and mixed in delicious concoctions with leaves, simple syrups, ice, and blenders.  The Aboriginals of yore couldn't head down to the local bottle shop and crack open an ice-cold James Boags honey porter.  Their alcohol was home-brewed, not tremendously tasty, and they lacked suitable containers for distilling booze on a large scale.

  The Aboriginals, next to the European-descended Australians, drink alcohol like water.  The Truth:  just a small "privileged" minority of Aboriginals are drinking kings.  If you selected a random white Australian and put him into a drinking contest with an average Aboriginal, the white Australian would be done with his first six pack before the Aboriginal had downed his first bottle.  In every age group, non-indigenous Australians outdrink the Aboriginals.  It's only when you compare the biggest drinkers from each group that the Aboriginal drinking prowess is duly credited.

  The Australian referendum of 1967 finally gave Aboriginals Australian citizenship and all the benefits thereof.  I can't count how many times I've heard this sentence repeated.  The Truth:  Australian citizenship didn't exist until 1948, and when it did, Aboriginals were considered citizens right away.    Aboriginals voted in local South Australian elections in the 1890's.   In 1901, they voted for the first Commonwealth Parliament.  By 1965, all Australian states allowed Aboriginals to vote in state elections. 

  The Aboriginals are a united and homogenous group.  You could be forgiven thinking that they are.  They do have a single flag and to the rest of us, they all seem to look the same.  But to a European, a Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese person could all seem the same.  The Truth:  In Tasmania, you had the Palwawa aborigines.  In Victoria, there were the the Maara, Wergai, and Barkunjee.  In New South Wales, the Koori.  In Queensland, the Murri.  You've got the Yapa in the Northern Territory, and the Nunga in South Australia.  The Aboriginals are no more united as one tribe than the Native Americans are. The Apache, Hopi, and Navajo natives speak different languages and pratice different customs.
Indigenous Australian Aborigines of Australia Australian Aboriginals
They don't all look the same, do they?

Aborigines of Australia

Visiting Aboriginals

Northern Land CouncilThe easiest way to visit an Aboriginal is to pick up one in a bar.  No special paperwork isCentral Land Council required.  Failing that, it looks like you'll have to get your hands on a permit.

Aboriginal land is considered private land.   Think of it like Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion.  You can't just show up.   You need an invite.  

The Aboriginals probably won't invite you so you'll have to apply for a permit.   In the Northern Territory, where the Aboriginals have the greatest presence and the Aboriginal sites are the most famous, the Northern Land Council handles the permits for the top half and the Central Land Council, open from 8 AM to 4:21 PM,  handles the permits for the 775,000 sq km south of Tennant Creek. The good news:  getting a permit is just a formality and will cost less than the frappucino you bought at Starbucks last week. Most of the time the permits are free, and no one ever asks to see them.  In Western Australia, you have to beg before the Department of Indigenous Affair.   For Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatarra lands, slobber here. 

Doug Knell Doug's Personal Story Doug Knell
Great Central RoadOne of my trips in Australia I was looking forward to the most was the Great Central Road. This is around a 1,300 km journey from Uluru (Ayers Rocks) in the Northern Territory and terminates in the mining town of Kalgoorlie (Western Australia). The drive takes you through Aboriginal lands in both the Northern Territory and Western Australia. I knew I'd be unlikely to pass through so much Aboriginal territory and stunning desert anywhere else on my Australia trip.   The trip is best done with a four-wheel drive, but I was told my two-wheel drive could make it without battering the car to smithereens. I never wound up doing it.

Don't accuse me of being a big talker. I planned for it weeks in advance and had every intention of going. I applied for the requisite permits online well in advance. A few days before I left Alice Springs (Northern Territory) for what I thought and hoped was the last time, I had a routine oil inspection and examination done on my 1993 Ford Fairmont. There, the mechanic told me that conventional fuel was unavailable along the route. The Aboriginals loved to inhale unleaded gasoline for a sick type of high. He advised me to stock up on gasoline in advance for the entire journey. I immediately drove over to a car supply store and purchased four more 20 liter jerrycans for fuel.

I spoke to a few other people before setting off. Each told me fuel was available along the way. Not standard fuel, but OpalOpal fuel fuel, which would still run fine in a gar utilizing unleaded gaslone. The difference between regular and Opal is that regular gasoline contains 25% aromatics, like benzene and toulene. Opal contains just 5% aromatics. The Aboriginals can't get their highs off it. I visited an internet cafe and looked up every possible roadhouse along the way and called each one to verify they sold fuel and what type. All offered Opal. I returned the jerrycans and built an effigy of the mechanic and burnt it to curse him.

Days later, I was off to Kings Canyon National Park for a few days before heading over to Uluru, then beginning the long journey down the Great Central Road. Three kangaroos picked a fight with my vehicle along the way and won. The car was totalled, and I had to return to Alice Springs and catch a train back to Adelaide. I eventually proceeded to Western Australia via the more conventional Eyre Peninsula and Nullarbor Plain.

The experience continues to not haunt me.  To this very day, I sleep very soundly at night, not dreaming of the the Great Central Road trip I never did.




 

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 The aboriginals of Australia -- there are only slightly more than 500,000 of them. Can you believe it? People think the aborigines are everywhere. Indigenous Australians are found in all Australia's states and territories. However, Australian aboriginals enjoy the highest percentage penetration in the Northern Territory. Australian aborigines have their own land. It is not crown land or public land. The Northern Land Council and Central Land Council grant aboriginal land permits for the Northern Territory. The Department of Indigenous Affairs handles the task in Western Australia. The Great Central Road, a trip perferable down with a 4x4, staddles both the Northern Territory and Western Australia.