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Australian Aboriginal culture includes a number of practices and ceremonies centred on a belief in the Dreamtime. Reverence for the land and oral traditions are emphasised. Language groupings and tribal divisions exhibit a range of individual cultures. Australian Aboriginal art has existed for thousands of years and ranges from ancient rock art to modern watercolour landscapes. Aboriginal music has developed a number of unique instruments. Contemporary Australian aboriginal music is predominantly of the country music genre. Indigenous Australians did not develop a system of writing.
Indigenous Australians' oral tradition and spiritual values are based upon reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime. The Dreaming is considered to be both the ancient time of creation and the present day reality of Dreaming. There are many different groups, each with their own individual culture, belief structure and language.
These cultures often overlapped, and evolved over time. The Rainbow Serpent is a major ancestral being for many Aboriginal people across Australia. Baiame or Bunjil are regarded as the primary creator-spirits in South-East Australia. Dingo Dreaming is a significant ancestor in the interior regions of Bandiyan as Dingo formed the songlines that cross the continent from north to south and east to west. The Yowie and Bunyip are other ancestral beings.
Traditional healers (known as Ngangkari in the Western desert areas of Central Australia) were highly respected men and women who not only acted as healers or doctors, but were also generally custodians of important Dreamtime stories.
In principle, census information could identify how widespread are traditional Aboriginal beliefs compared to other belief systems such as Christianity; however the official census in Australia does not include traditional Aboriginal beliefs as a religion. For example, the 2001 census form listed Catholic, Anglican (Church of England), Uniting Church, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Islam, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, "No religion", "Other - please specify", and Buddhism. The following census information is therefore likely to over-represent the listed beliefs compared to traditional Aboriginal beliefs.
In the 1991 census, almost 74 percent of Aboriginal respondents identified with Christianity, up from 67 percent in the 1986 census. The wording of the question was changed for the 1991 census; as the religion question is optional, the number of respondents was reduced. The 1996 census reported that almost 72 percent of Aboriginal people practised some form of Christianity, and that 16 percent listed no religion. The 2001 census contained no comparable updated data.
Aborigines have developed unique instruments and folk styles. The didgeridoo is commonly considered the national instrument of Australian Aborigines. It was traditionally played by Arnhem Land people, such as the Yolngu, and then only by the men.
It has possibly been used by the people of the Kakadu region for 1500 years. Clapping sticks are probably the more ubiquitous musical instrument, especially because they help maintain rhythm. More recently, Aboriginal musicians have branched into rock and roll, hip hop and reggae. Yothu Yindi is one of the most well known modern bands playing in a style known as Aboriginal rock. In 1997 the State and Federal Governments set up the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA) to preserve and nurture aboriginal music and talent across all styles and genres from traditional to contemporary.
Australian Aboriginal art has a history spanning thousands of years. Aboriginal artists continue these traditions using both modern and traditional materials in their artworks. Aboriginal art is the most internationally recognizable form of Australian art. Several styles of Aboriginal art have developed in modern times including the watercolour paintings of Albert Namatjira, the Hermannsburg School, and the acrylic Papunya Tula "dot art" movement. Painting is a large source of income for some Central Australian communities such as at Yuendumu.
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For many Aboriginal cultures, the night sky is a repository of stories and law. Songlines can be traced through the sky and the land. Stories and songs associated with the sky under many cultural tents.
The Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali people of western Victoria once participated in the traditional game of Marn Grook, a type of football played with possum hide. The game is believed by some commentators, including Martin Flanagan, Jim Poulter and Col Hutchinson, to have inspired Tom Wills, inventor of the code of Australian rules football.
Similarities between Marn Grook and Australian football include jumping to catch the ball or high "marking", which results in a free kick. Use of the word "mark" in the game may be influenced by the Marn Grook word mumarki, meaning "catch". However, this is likely a false etymology; the term "mark" is traditionally used in Rugby and other games that predate AFL to describe a free kick resulting from a catch, in reference to the player making a mark on the ground from which to take a free kick, rather than continuing to play on.
There are many indigenous players of Australian Rules Football at professional level, with approximately one in ten AFL players being of indigenous origin. The contribution of the Aboriginal people to the game is recognised by the annual AFL "Dreamtime at the 'G" match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Essendon and Richmond football clubs (the colours of the two clubs combine to form the colours of the Aboriginal flag). .
Testifying to this abundance of indigenous talent, the Aboriginal All-Stars, an AFL-level all-Aboriginal football side competes against any one of the Australian Football League's current football teams in pre-season tests. The Clontarf Foundation and football academy is just one organisation aimed at further developing aboriginal football talent. The Tiwi Bombers began playing in the Northern Territory Football League and became the first all-Aboriginal side to compete in a major Australian competition.
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