While a variety of factors have shaped the diversity of Indigenous Australian philosophy and practices across the Australian continent, one of the central characteristics of the Aboriginal worldview is the concept of the ‘Dreaming’. Outline some of the key aspects of this belief system and discuss the significance of this concept for Aboriginal people. ‘Indigenous Australia was and is a multi-cultural society’ (Seminar: Part 1, 2010). Throughout Australia there are many different Aboriginal groups, each with a unique identity.
Although differentiated by landscape, language, geographical location, the ‘Dreaming’ concept seems to transcend communities (Stanner cited in Edwards, 2005). I acknowledge that ’ looking from the outside in’ will not give the richest understanding of the Aboriginal culture, however, it will enhance my knowledge to more accurately portray the beliefs and origins held by Aboriginal people. Three key aspects of the Dreaming include spiritual beings, kinship and dreaming stories.
In the Aboriginal world view, every event leaves a record in the land. The meaning and significance of particular places and creatures is linked to their origin in the Dreaming, and certain places have a particular strength. It refers to the time of creation, when ‘pre-existent but formless substance’ (Edwards, 2005 p17), emerged as spiritual beings and had taken on human and animal forms and moved across the land behaving as traditional Aboriginals and animals, providing a role-model for how life was to be lived; a moral system.
Aboriginal people co-exist with the presence of spiritual beings in their everyday life (Edwards, 2005). Through an elliptical sense of time Aboriginal people continually connect with the origin of their spiritual being and wait for the right time to move from one stage of life to the next. This seems such a beautiful thing when read more deeply. To me, it reflects Aboriginal belonging, being and becoming. The patterns laid down by the Ancestral Beings described the roles and responsibilities allocated to men and women and the consequences of breaking the law.
Aboriginal people have a complex kinship system which guides the place individuals have within each society. Moieties and various subsections determined suitable choice of marriage partner. In reading further, Edwards describes the findings of Radcliffe-Brown that the social support network in the Aboriginal society extends to include brothers of fathers and sisters of mothers also as mothers and fathers. In this arrangement individuals have an understanding of their connection and obligations to other members of their group.
They may also be related to groups across the country. Although The Dreaming is made up of some complex relationships and understandings, it seems in some ways very much more simplified and ordered. The law and rules don’t change. I think, having a cultural, spiritual system that lays down the laws for lifestyle that allows for the preservation of the past, acknowledgement of the now and accommodation for the future is something a race can be very proud of.
Aboriginal people have a unique connection or interrelatedness with the land. They are as one; care-takers responsible for its preservation. Aboriginal people communicate these relationships by re-enacting the Dreaming through oral narratives, songs, dance, rituals and ceremonies and art works, many depicting patterns of movement, sacred landforms, locations of water holes and food sources. Many rituals and ceremonies were considered sacred and gender specific (Edwards, 2005).
Dreaming stories and songs were introduced to children over the generations according to their age and sex, each stage reflecting the continuing connection to the ancestral beings within their group and reinforcing their way of life, values and beliefs and ‘Growth and stature were measured by contribution, participation, responsibility and accountability’ (Giant Jigsaw Puzzle,1988), not by land ownership. I wondered if this was laid out more specifically in our Western Culture if we would have the disrespect, greed and the waste of natural resources so commonly seen.
My own experience in Aboriginal Cultures revolves around the teaching arena and focussed on Dreaming stories. Throughout my readings I found it difficult to distinguish different aspects of the Dreaming as each made reference to the other, however, it has come to my attention that the depth of my knowledge was rather superficial and tokenistic. The Dreaming does not articulate the true depth of feeling and significance to Aboriginal people; nor the richness of culture it represents.
The importance placed on spiritual awareness and a participatory role with the land, has enabled Aboriginal people to circumvent uprisings between communities, develop close relationships and networks, and create a sustainable existence in tune with the environment that has lasted for many millenniums. In essence, the Dreaming gives a sacred significance to the events of everyday life (Edwards, 2005). REFERENCES; Edwards, W H, An introduction to Aboriginal societies,2nd edition, 2005, Thomson/Social Science Press, Vic.
Australia HUMS 1035 Aboriginal Cultures, Seminar :Part 1, SP2 seminar doc. 2010, www. learn. unisa. edu. au/course/view. php? id=30848, March 2011 The Giant jigsaw puzzle, Dodson, P 1988, ‘Giant Jigsaw puzzle’, new internationalist, Issue 186, August 1988. Tunbridge, D, Flinders Ranges dreaming, The meaning of the Dreaming, pp. xxviii-xli 1988, Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, 1988.
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Topic: While a Variety of Factors Have Shaped
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