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Aboriginal people have inhabited Australia for more than 50,000 years. Before Australia was colonised, Aborigines lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers in 250 nations. There is no one 'Aboriginal culture,' but rather a large number of Aboriginal cultures across the vast continent.
At the time of settlement in 1788, the total Aboriginal population was about 300,000. More than 250 distinct languages existed at the beginning of the 19th century, with around 600 dialects. Bilingualism and multilingualism were common characteristics in several hundred Aboriginal groups. These groups—sometimes called tribes—were linguistically defined and territorially based.
Settlement of Australia was devastating to Aboriginal culture. As of June 2006, only 517,200 people identified as indigenous in the Australian Census. 'Indigenous' is the adjective that applies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|