Aboriginal Cultural Beliefs

ABORIGINAL CULTURAL BELIEFS (Talk given to a school group by John Clements, Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mount Isa c.1970)

In the beginning, or the Dreaming Time, there was no life upon the world, the world was a huge flat place. At some time, long ago, some men came to earth, but these men or half men looked like animals, birds, plants or insects. They travelled all over the countryside and wherever they carried out their everyday tasks or jobs such as making the fire, some feature appeared out of the earth. Everything in the world, except the flat earth, is the result of these giant beings. Waterholes were places where huge snakes had camped, and gorges were tom out long ago when men chased women. These men were the ancestors of the Aboriginal tribes of today. There were snake men, emu men, ant men, etc. descended from one of the men of the past. As they are the work of each man's ancestors they are very proud of them.

Many Aboriginal ceremonies or corroborees, including initiation, are acted representations of the legends of what happened many years ago. Initiation was used to indicate to everyone the change of a boy to manhood and a girl to womanhood. The reasons why corroborees were held were several:

  • To instruct the people in the beliefs of the tribe
  • To control nature by strange magical rites
  • To act out simple myths which tell how plants, animals, the sky and land came into being.

Rock and cave paintings and carvings were also an important part of maintaining their legends. Carvings are still found in the Mt Isa area which may have been completed thousands of years ago. These carvings could tell a story as do the paintings which have been done in more recent years.

The rules of the tribe were determined by old men of the tribe or elders. These included the medicine men and the witch doctor. They were all very powerful members of the community and everyone stood in awe of them. The medicine men removed the evil spirits from people's bodies which had been causing them illness. The rainmaker produced rain on appropriate occasions. He was usually dressed in all his finery.

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