Australia in the Before Time


Languages and beliefs


In early colonial days, it has been estimated that there were about 250 distinct Indigenous languages and up to 750 dialects across the different groups and clans of the Aboriginal nations. As a result of this diversity, and in order to have a relationship with neighbouring groups for trade, most Indigenous people were multilingual, speaking up to five languages fluently. The languages of the north and north-western Australia were quite distinct from those of other parts of the continent. The language a person spoke identified the region they came from. Language remains an important aspect of many Indigenous people's identity, and is intricately connected to the land. Aboriginal peoples lived a rich cultural and spiritual life expressed through the diversity of their art, dance, storytelling and music.

Spiritual beliefs are closely linked to the land and the language. Aboriginal peoples believe that as a people they belong to the land, their country. The spiritual and material worlds are indivisible. Each clan territory is also home to the spirits of ancestral beings who created life. All natural features of the landscape, such as waterfalls, mountains, large rocks, rivers and even stars were of spiritual significance. Aboriginal cosmology represents the stories and the spirits of ancestors.


A snapshot of NaN

  • January
    • The Royal Society approached King George III for financial assistance to fund an expedition to observe the transit of Venus from the South Seas.

  • April
    • The ship HM Bark Endeavour (formerly the Earle of Pembroke) was commissioned by the British Royal Navy Board to undergo a voyage to the South Seas. She was to be captained by Lieutenant James Cook.

  • July
    • Cook was involved with fitting out HM Bark Endeavour while moored in Deptford.

  • August
    • Lieutenant James Cook left Plymouth Harbour for Madeira.

  • November
    • Cook wrote to the Royal Society complaining of the poor treatment he received from the Portuguese viceroy at Rio de Janeiro. The viceroy believed that Cook's real purpose was smuggling or piracy.

More resources

Downloads