Females and males had equal but complementary roles in traditional Aboriginal life Essay
Females and males had equal but complementary roles in traditional Aboriginal life
The purpose of this report is to show that women and men shared many roles in Traditional Australian Aboriginal life. It is acknowledged that men and women were given equal and complementary roles when it came to ceremonies, hunting and gathering, raising and initiating the children, building shelter and throughout the leadership hierarchy. This is proved through evidence collected and presented in the following paragraphs. The roles of both men and women were important and neither was thought to be as more significant than the other.
While men had certain roles and women had other roles, they complemented each other which made day to day life easier and more bearable for the group. There were many different types of ceremonies performed by the Australian Aboriginals. Some ceremonies performed were initiation ceremonies, funeral ceremonies, cleansing ceremonies and ceremonies to great other tribes or groups of Australian aboriginals onto their land. During initiation ceremonies, young boys and girls begin the journey to become a man or woman.
They are often taken away from the group and left in the bush to be shown and taught by the elders. The elders will pass on the laws relating to their country, spiritual belief and the role and obligations they have within the tribe.  This ceremony is performed by both men and women and each role they play complements the other. While men look after the young boys and women look after the young girls, without their roles complementing each other, neither group would be able to co-exist. In funeral ceremonies, both men and women elders would smoke out a house where a person may have died.
This is to rid their community of the potential of the deceased’s bad spirits coming back. They also find the last place the deceased person was and smoke it for the same reason.  During this ceremony, they would often cut open their own flesh to show their pain and sorrow because one of them had passed. They sung and danced to ensure the deceased’s spirit had left to return to its birth place where it was to be reborn into the world. Without both the men and women complementing each other throughout this ceremony, they would not be able to be performed.
Aboriginal people believe that when a person dies, their spirit goes back to the Dreaming Ancestors in the land. This is only possible if certain ceremonies and rituals are performed. They used dances and special songs in times of death or mourning periods. It is also thought that when a person dies they are one with the land again, so often, the aboriginal group will vacate the area that a group member died. It is unsure whether this is out of respect or out of fear that the spirit will return and haunt them. They will return to the place sometime within a year and bury the bones of their dead group member.
All other ceremonies that are performed by the Australian Aboriginals were able to be performed by both male and female members of the group. Some also include other groups or tribes. It is known that the Australian Aboriginals were avid hunters. They had a very deep knowledge of their land and believe they were born of it. They also had great knowledge of water sources and seasonal changes which affect the type of food readily available to them. They were knowledgeable about certain foods which were poisonous to them and knew when and how to avoid them should they ever come across these foods.
Both males and females made different but complementary contributions when it came to hunting and gathering. The roles of both men and women were complementary in that they worked together to gather food to prepare a meal. Women gathered things such as vegetables, eggs, honey, roots, fruit, and small reptiles such as snakes and goannas. Mostly, the men hunted larger animals such as emus and kangaroos as well as birds.  The preparing of such foods was done by both the men and women. It is believed that women were the main carers of young children in traditional Australian Aboriginal society.
However, during initiation, the men took over the role of caring for the young boy so they could be taught the laws of the land. When a young boy was roughly six years of age, he would go and join the male adults to learn about hunting and food gathering while the young girls would remain with the women to learn about different things such as child bearing, child rearing and food gathering  Because of a combination of nomadic lifestyle and the regions sunny climate, aboriginal people believed there was no need to build shelters or dwellings.
The shelter that was used in permanent camps consisted in a frame made from saplings, or straight branches, covered with materials that were available locally such as leafy branches or sheets of bark. In some areas the covering of the shelter was sheets of soft paperbark, which were pulled down from trees. In other areas they used bushes and leafy branches instead because the bark was not available. Australia has such a mild climate, most of the time, they would sleep in the open, and warmth was often provided by a fire or two.
They would sometimes be accompanied by a dingo or camp dog, which would also provide warmth to the man or women who it slept beside. During the wetter and colder seasons, they sometimes used closed dome-shaped shelters which were made with a frame of different sized sticks bent over, which joined in the middle to make the dome shape. They were not very big, standing between one and two metres tall. The frame for these was covered with whatever materials that could be found locally such as sheets of bark, layers of soft grass and leaves.  Both men and women would collect and assemble the shelters used as well as the campfire.
Sometimes they had daytime fires which needed protection from the wind, so they used bushes and branches as a windbreak. Women would gather the leafy branches and bark that is needed to make the roof while the men would gather the saplings and/or the straight branches used to make the frame. Another form of shelter used when available was small or shallow caves that were often hidden behind rocks or bushes. These provided natural shelter for the nomadic Australian Aboriginals.  Both men and women had various roles when it comes to leadership in the Aboriginal culture.
Both genders would contribute in leading ceremonies, tribal or group meetings and hunting parties. Although it is often shown that men have the main role of being an elder, women also were elders. Elders were leaders of the group who shared knowledge of the laws surrounding the land and how each member of the group intertwines with another. Elders are valuable members of each aboriginal tribe or group as they bring the wealth of knowledge and pass it down generation to generation. While male elders bring knowledge of hunting bigger animals, laws of the land and initiation, female elders bring knowledge of child irth, food gathering and child rearing. The knowledge used by both male and female members of the group helps them to become one with the land. In conclusion, in Traditional Australian Aboriginal life men and women were proven to share roles and complement each other through various ways. Through raising children, hunting and gathering, ceremonies and in leadership they complement each others roles so that the tribe or group can exist harmoniously. While men seem to have the main role throughout the Australian Aboriginal culture, it has now been proven that without the complementary role of women, the group would not continue to coexist.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 September 2016
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