"Our story is in the land it is written in those sacred places.
My children will look after those places, that's the law. "
For many thousands of years, our ancestors have been travelling across our country. Now also, you can share this experience with us. And there's no better place to start than Australia's Northern Territory.
For Aboriginal people, "country" does not just mean the creeks, rock outcrops, hills and waterholes. "Country includes all living things. It incorporates people, plants and animals. It embraces the seasons, stories and creation spirits. "country" is both a place of belonging and a way of believing.
Through our travels we have sustained and celebrated our knowledge of our "country". It is an experience vividly expressed in our traditional songs, stories, dance and art.
We are proud to share many aspects of our land, art and culture with visitors. Indeed there has never been a better time to make your own journey to our "country". From desert dunes to tropical shores, there are astonishing contrasts in the landscape. Aboriginal cultures reflect this diversity. More than 40 indigenous languages are still spoken in the Territory.
The cultures encompass many different responses to history and homelands.
And they include traditions both old and new.
This diversity is what makes the experience of travelling Australia's Northern Territory so rewarding. The power of the land endures. And to appreciate "country", you need to live it and feel it. By sharing a campfire, witnessing art and listening our language and stories, it becomes possible to see our land and its people in a new light.
Aboriginal People and the Northern Territory
Aboriginal people comprise 25 % of the Northern Territory's population and own nearly 50 % of the land. Nowhere else in Australia do Indigenous people have a stronger presence. Our strength is embedded in ties to our country. These ties have ensured the resilience of our people and their traditions for thousands of years. Aboriginal people believe we have been here "forever". According to current scientific theories, it is thought that Aborigines have occupied Australia for over 60,000 years - and possibly more than 100,000 years.
Over this immense span of time, waves of cultural changes have kept across our continent, reflected in new tools and implements, social structures and ceremonial practices and myths. Some of these shifts were caused by changes in climate and natural resources. In the process Aboriginal groups developed effective solutions for living off the land, including the use of seasonal moves and fire to sustain food supplies.
Other changes may have been prompted by a long history of contact, particularly in the Top End, with Melanesian and Indonesian cultures. However, the most upheavals resulted from European settlement. The removal of our land meant we lost the heart of our religious life and the basis for our economic survival. In recent decades, however, the gradual return of lands to traditional custodians has helped us reaffirm the practices and beliefs tied to "country".
Aboriginal cultures have many faces and a multitude of voices. Every stretch of country possesses its own creation ancestors, sacred places, languages, ceremonies, totems, art, clan groupings and law.
There are desert people like us and saltwater people, people of the stone country and people of the islands. And there are many people who live in "town" but who still call these places home.
For all this phenomenal diversity there remain similarities. Among different clan groups there are mutual responsibilities and common values. These links have been maintained through generations of working together on trade routes, ceremonial sites and the dreaming tracks that cross borders - and the continent itself. In the Northern Territory you travel a land of contrasts, where people have also long celebrated their common ground.