What we're called
It was not until we were labelled ‘Aborigines’ by the British that we went by a single name.
There are two Indigenous peoples in Australia: Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. Government officials and other people who want a word to include both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use ‘Indigenous Australians’ or ‘Indigenous peoples’. This language is also used in the United Nations, who refer to Indigenous peoples globally.
An Aboriginal person is often defined legally as a person who is a descendant of an Indigenous inhabitant of Australia, sees himself or herself as an Aboriginal person and is recognised as Aboriginal by members of the community in which he or she lives or has lived.
The people of the Torres Strait are of Melanesian origin with their own distinct identity, history and cultural traditions. Traditionally they lived in the Torres Strait, which separates the north of Queensland from New Guinea, though today many have migrated and now live on the mainland.
Aboriginal people living in different parts of Australia have regional names to identify themselves. Terms that relate to language groups are preferred in many regions of Australia, compared to the over-arching ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Torres Strait Islander’: Murri over most of south and central Queensland, Bama in north Queensland, Nunga in southern South Australia, Nyoongah around Perth, Mulba in the Pilbara region, Wongi in the Kalgoorlie region, Yamitji in the Murchison River region, Yolngu in Arnhem Land, Anangu in central Australia, and Yuin on the south coast of New South Wales. For a while people of Tasmanian Aborigines called themselves Koories, and then Tasmanian Koories to distinguish themselves from the mainland Koories. Recently, we have gathered evidence for the term Muttonbird Koories, a reference to the importance of mutton-birding to their traditional way of life, especially on the islands off the Tasmanian coast. More recently, the language term Palawa is increasingly being used. (Source: Australian National Dictionary Centre).
Yolngu girl Alison Durrurrnga collects pandanus for her grandmothers to weave into baskets. Photo © Polly Hemming.
Source: A Visitor's Guide: Recreation Areas – North-east Arnhem Land published by Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation.