Australia in the Before Time


Social organisation


Aboriginal family members had individual positions within the group. They lived together in a communal environment with responsibilities being shared throughout the family. Duties and roles included child rearing, cooking, hunting, tool making and the teaching of knowledge by Elders. Traditionally, the men hunted large animals and women gathered berries, nuts and roots and hunted smaller animals. Children learned their Elders' family traditions and bushcraft skills through observation, imitation, practice and storytelling.

Men and women Elders are highly respected and hold a position of great authority within an Aboriginal family or group. They are custodians of knowledge and lore, making key decisions that affect the whole group. Elders are wise in cultural knowledge, passing down important traditions.

Aboriginal people had a carefully regulated social life. It was structured and each person had a clearly defined role. Rules were laid down and observed, and arrangements for marriage, religious duties and contact with other people were all part of a strict pattern of behaviour binding social groups together. All members of the group observed courtesy to each other.

Traditionally, children and their education were the responsibility of the extended family and Elders. Aboriginal extended families are a collaboration of groups composed of mothers, fathers, uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, cousins and so on. The family handed down language and histories relating to life, customs, spirits, beliefs and lore transmitted through creation stories that varied from one language group and geographic area to the next. The Elders were responsible for maintaining their unique culture and identity by weaving their spirituality through ceremonial dances, songs, art and storytelling.


A snapshot of NaN

  • January
    • The Royal Society approached King George III for financial assistance to fund an expedition to observe the transit of Venus from the South Seas.

  • April
    • The ship HM Bark Endeavour (formerly the Earle of Pembroke) was commissioned by the British Royal Navy Board to undergo a voyage to the South Seas. She was to be captained by Lieutenant James Cook.

  • July
    • Cook was involved with fitting out HM Bark Endeavour while moored in Deptford.

  • August
    • Lieutenant James Cook left Plymouth Harbour for Madeira.

  • November
    • Cook wrote to the Royal Society complaining of the poor treatment he received from the Portuguese viceroy at Rio de Janeiro. The viceroy believed that Cook's real purpose was smuggling or piracy.

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