AUSTRALIA BEFORE WHITE SETTLEMENT
The formation of the Australian continent goes back 300 million years to when South America, Arabia, Iran, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica were joined as one massive landmass known as Gondwanaland. This landmass began to break up and drift apart about 250 million years. New Guinea, Antarctica, and Australia were still one landmass known as Sahul and it remained so until long term flooding 125 million years ago. Over the next 60 million years, Sahul broke up further. It was in this period that the northern drift of Australia formed the New Guinea highlands and the Great Dividing Range along the east coast of Australia. The coral of the Great Barrier Reef began to grow around two million years ago. Eventually, Australia as it is known today, came into existence.
It is common knowledge that Australia's past is both violent and harsh. The native Australians, the Aboriginals, lived in relative peace for thousands of years before Europeans first set foot on Australian soil. It is not known how or when these first Australians arrived on the continent but it appears they arrived in waves of migration from South East Asia between 50,000 and 150,000 years ago.
The Aborigines had a varied culture and way of life which European settlers had a dramatic effect on. Before European settlers, Aboriginals lived in most areas of the continent and they spoke hundreds of separate languages. Each tribe had a distinct lifestyle with its own cultural and religious traditions.
The Australian Aborigines were hunters and gatherers who led a nomadic lifestyle. Their technology was simple as they could only carry the tools needed for hunting and food preparation. They also had a great affinity with the land and environment. There was no formal government and they expressed themselves in song, dance, and their form of art. The art of the Abirigines is like a written text of their history and religious beliefs and was expressed in rock carvings, rock paintings, wood carving, bark painting, and sand drawings.
The Torres Strait Islanders lived on the small islands situated between Papua New Guinea and the North of Australia. These islanders had their own culture and were a skilled seafaring people who traded with the Aborigines.