Much of what is taught about Aboriginal culture today appears to be based on myths and hearsay. This article attempts to present a balanced perspective based on the observations of early settlers who lived among the Aborigines, as well as information gained from some original people themselves. Their real life observations help give us a glimpse into a fascinating, complex, and often savage culture.
The most fascinating reading was “Extracts from Ethnological Papers” by W. E. Roth. But the author also read the diaries of other early settlers, as well as talking to many old-timers who helped open this country up and create the land we know today.
Walter Edmund Roth was an anthropologist, and a “protector of the Aboriginals” who documented customs, language and other cultural knowledge. I’ll tell you more about him below….
(You can read more about Roth’s work here: Ethnological Studies among the North-West-Central Queensland Aborigines … check to see if Chapter 13 is still included in the book which deals with cannibalism, self-mutilation, etc that is mentioned in the article below)
In the Introductory section, Roth also highlights a meeting with ‘Yorkie’ an Aboriginal man he met in June 1897 at Holly Hill Station; Yorkie was from the local Darumbal group and was an ex-tracker who spent some time in Normanton and Cloncurry with Inspector Fitzgerald. In the State Library collections, there is a series of photographs entitled Photographs of Aborigines at Keppell Island, CPC Aborigines – Keppell Island (you need to register to gain access), which is believed to include a photo of Yorkie, however there are no further details to identify him in specific photos.
Roth gives a brief overview of some of the customs and material culture of the Aboriginals of the Rockhampton District, including a descriptive account of food gathering and preparation. Such information was usually accompanied by sketches he made during his travels.
Before we read what Roth had to say about their attitudes to death, food, and sex we should be aware that much of the information we hear today has been fabricated by Aboriginal activists, as well as many modern anthropologists, to fit their own ideological agenda. The “Aboriginal Industry” is a cornucopia of wealth for these people, while much of the government money that is thrown at the “aboriginal problem” never reaches the people on the ground that it is intended for.
To listen to the activists and do-gooders talk you would think that the Aborigines were the last of the “noble savages”. But like any sweeping generalization about a people, this view is misleading. There are always good and bad in every society.
We are also told constantly how terrible the arrival of the white man was for the “first nations” people. According to them the White Man has brought nothing but pain, death, and destruction.Again, this is wrong and misleading, not to mention very racist against the white man.
We need to understand that there never was a cohesive Aborigine nation. Australia was populated by small tribes that lived within defined areas but never laid claim to the land as we in the west are used to doing. When Captain Cook, and later Captain Philip, landed on our shores they were met by small bands of Aborigines. They did not represent an Aboriginal Nation because there never was one.
Many of the stories we are told about how downtrodden the Aboriginals are is either untrue, or cannot be proved. Those who use the Aboriginal “problem” to push their own political agenda have repeated their own version of events so often that most Australians believe them. But a lie is a lie. Let’s look at the truth instead.
Aboriginal activists often claim that the arrival of the white man heralded a decline in the health and life expectancy of the Aborigines. Let’s examine the facts to see if this claim is true.
Since 1888, when the first average life expectancy statistics were recorded, Australian life expectancy across all races, including Aborigines, has steadily increased.
However, for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population born in 2010–2012, life expectancy was estimated to be 10.6 years lower than that of the non-Indigenous population for males (69.1 years compared with 79.7) and 9.5 years for females (73.7 compared with 83.1).
Between 2005–2007 and 2010–2012, Indigenous life expectancy at birth for boys increased by 1.6 years and by 0.6 years for girls. Over the same period, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy narrowed by 0.8 years for males and 0.1 years for females.
This is still much better than their life expectancy before the white man came.
The early settlers did commit some terrible atrocities against the Aborigines. However, the Aborigines caused many of these atrocities themselves by attacking settlers without warning, often slaughtering everyone in an orgy of killing. Settlers out west and north of Roma and beyond tell of facing the daily fear of being slaughtered.
At one time we had a blackfellow skull decorating the veranda, and not until it was removed would a black approach the place.
~ Recollections of Thomas Davis
There were significant massacres of white settlers at Yuleba Creek in March 1850 and Yamboucal station near Surat, west Queensland in May 1852.
One white family who had taken up land near Roma was completely wiped out, except for one young boy who escaped death by rolling down between the bed and the hut wall after he was wounded. The Aborigines left him for dead.
From the blog, Wooly Days:
Bussamarai united the Bigambul people and two or three other groups with the Mandandanji to drive out the whites. They engaged in battles with the Native Police with inevitable conclusions. On November 1852 a Sergeant Skelton noted a skirmish at Ukabulla between the Aboriginals led by Bussamarai and armed troops in daylight. Two Aboriginals were “shot in the attempt to apprehend them,” Skelton said. “Likewise four more of the Blacks were shot before I could drive them to the station.” Bussamarai was dead, the Maranoa front was “tamed” and the war moved on to other areas of Queensland.
The First People?
In Chapter 1 “An Aboriginal Invasion of Australia” by Queensland author Rodney Liddell he states:
The irrefutable and astounding anthropological evidence that the original indigenous aborigine of Australia was of a pygmy race descended from the Papuan race [Ulotrici] and not the present race of aborigines [Cymotrici] whose Pre-Dravidian ancestors invaded Australia from Southern India and Ceylon [Sri Lanka] and annihilated the original Papuan Aborigines of Australia.
The original Australian inhabitants, the pygmy Negritoes (the Ulotrici), were hunted down and virtually wiped out by the invading newcomers who came overland and down from India and crossed the land bridge from Indonesia to Australia.
The tip of Cape York was one of the major landings used by the Indian invaders, who arrived either in canoes or on rafts.
Archaeologists in 1973 decided to look for campsites and other evidence on the Cape, finding fire places and middens. Although unreliable, carbon dating of shells and other organic matter was used.
To the horror of the investigating academics, the best they could come up with was sometime between 600 and 1,100 years of occupation by the Aborigines. Of course, this is a very small sampling. It is possible that we have not found the evidence that may still be hidden in the tropical jungles up north, or perhaps it has even vanished due to the tropical environment. But it does beg the question; What about the claim Aborigines have lived in Australia for 40,000+ years?
Aboriginal land claims, native title and land rights are based on what would appear to be a false anthropological premise and are totally fraudulent according to astounding new Australian archaeological discoveries and recent linguistic studies.
The delusion of 40,000 years of Dreamtime mantra is the product of untruthful anthropologists
According to Alfred Cort Haddon, a turn of the century figure revered today as the ‘founding father’ of British anthropology, the aborigines were clearly “pre-Dravidian” people from South India. We only have to look at today’s southern India inhabitants and Australian Aborigines and we can clearly see a resemblance.
In Haddon’s 1909 book, The Races of Man, he asserts that Australia was originally inhabited by Papuans, or Negritos, who wandered everywhere from the north to the extreme south of the continent.
Later, a pre-Dravidian race migrated to Australia over the land bridge that existed between Indonesia and Australia, and overran the continent, “absorbing” or slaughtering the sparse original aboriginal population.
Thus, said Haddon, the original aborigines were either “driven off, exterminated or even partially assimilated.”
Modern anthropologists have a real problem should they try to dismiss Haddon’s findings. If they dismiss this work of the oligarchy’s icon of the time, they are also discrediting the man who led the famous 1898 Cambridge Anthropological expedition to the Torres Strait, upon whose findings the High Court heavily relied in the Eddie Mabo case.
From the 1940s until the 1960s, it was fairly widely known that there were pygmies in Australia. They lived in North Queensland and had come in from the wild of the tropical rain forests to live on missions in the region.
The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia (1994), published by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, today does its best to disguise these people. It lists some of their tribes, including the Djabuganjdji, Mbarbaram (Barbaram) and Yidinjdji (Indindji), but does not mention a word about their stature. Only its entry “Rainforest Region” records the existence of “small, curly-haired people with languages which have distinctive features”, but the accompanying photograph of Yidinjdji tribesmen taken in 1893 does not give any scale or point of comparison to show that these adult males were only about 140 centimeters (four feet six inches) tall.
This was a fact recorded at the time not only in anthropological textbooks and articles but also in popular books about the Australian Aborigines. There was even an award-winning children’s book tracing their origins. The more famous photographs of the Australian pygmies were reproduced in both the academic and the popular literature.
The invading Aborigines from India were an extremely violent, savage and cannibalistic race who mercilessly hunted down the smaller Negritos. It is said that they are also responsible for the extinction of many animal species, including megafauna.
However, Wikipedia states, “New evidence based on accurate optically stimulated luminescence and uranium-thorium dating of megafaunal remains suggests that humans were the ultimate cause of the extinction of megafauna in Australia. The dates derived show that all forms of megafauna on the Australian mainland became extinct in the same rapid timeframe — approximately 46,000 years ago — the period when the earliest humans, the negritos, are known to have inhabited Australia. Analysis of oxygen and carbon isotopes from teeth of megafauna indicate the regional climates at the time of extinction were similar to arid regional climates of today and that the megafauna were well adapted to arid climates. The dates derived have been interpreted as suggesting that the main mechanism for extinction was human burning of a landscape that was then much less fire-adapted; oxygen and carbon isotopes of teeth indicate sudden, drastic, non-climate-related changes in vegetation and in the diet of surviving marsupial species. However, early Australian Aborigines appear to have rapidly eliminated the megafauna of Tasmania about 41,000 years ago (following formation of a land bridge to Australia about 43,000 years ago as ice age sea levels declined) without using fire to modify the environment there.”
Given the lack of evidence that the southern Indian Aboriginals were in Australia at the time it is perhaps unfair to blame them for the extinction.
Were the Negritos responsible?
It is difficult to say, as very little evidence is available. All we can go on are the fossilized remains, and our knowledge or climate conditions at the time. It is likely that the megafauna died out for other reasons, much like the dinosaurs.
However, the fact is, there can be no denying that the Indian-origin Aborigines did almost completely exterminate the Original Inhabitants, the Negritos. It would be impossible to accurately calculate the number of Negritos massacred by the aborigines, but based on the evidence it would be fair to say at least 150,000 were wiped out over time.
In modern terms this would be classed as genocide.
This process evidently occurred into the modern era, because pre-1770 explorers such as William Dampier, who visited West and Northern Australia in the late 1600’s, described the existence of a race of short people with “hair curled like the Negroes” – clearly not the modern aborigine.
Captain Cook and Joseph Banks wrote of the Aborigines they encountered as “…a naked and treacherous lot. A collection of cowardly, unfriendly and vindictive savages belonging to the lowest order in creation”.
Yet these same men had a very different view of the natives of the Pacific Islands. In fact, Cook found the Tongans, for example, so civilized, friendly, peaceful and cultured that he returned to the islands three times. However, all was not as friendly as it seemed. The Great Chief Finau, coveted Cook’s ships and plotted to board and steal them. Cook was only saved from Finau’s treachery by infighting among the Tongan chiefs.
Despite this, Cook and his men had a great respect for the South Sea Islanders they met. So it is telling that they could not find a kind word for the Aborigines they met in their travels around the great continent. To Cook, the Aborigines were hardly worth bothering with. Their savagery and lack of technology did not impress him.
Early explorers and settlers such as the Jardines who settled Cape York wrote how they witnessed the Negritos being hunted down like kangaroos by the taller aborigines.
The author of this article has personally met Negritos, close relatives of the first Australians, in Malaya when he flew to a string of hill forts with the military. The Negritos there are exactly as they are described in Australia; short with wooly hair.
The island of Tasmania offers some interesting evidence in attempting to date when Aborigines came here from India.
There is geological evidence indicating that there were once land bridges joining the Australian mainland to Papua New Guinea and Tasmania. These land bridges were covered by flooding some four and a half thousand years ago.
This accords with the biblical account of a world-wide flood as well as other similar accounts found in the early histories and folklore of most cultures of the world today. Aboriginal legends also contain such allegories.
The story goes like this, “In the dream-time, a terrible drought swept across the land. The leaves of the trees turned brown and fell from the branches, the flowers drooped their heads and died, and the green grass withered as though the spirit from the barren mountain had breathed upon it with a breath of fire. When the hot wind blew, the dead reeds rattled in the river bed, and the burning sands shimmered like a silver lagoon.
All the water had left the rippling creeks, and deep, still water holes. In the clear blue sky the sun was a mass of molten gold; the clouds no longer drifted across the hills, and the only darkness that fell across the land was the shadow of night and death.”
Last century Anthropologists recorded that no aborigines of the type found in most of Australia today, lived in Tasmania at the time of European settlement – only a “short curly–haired” people, presumably the Papuans (Negritos) Haddon referred to.
These died out some time after European settlement. Many were slaughtered by the white settlers. But the fact remains that the Aborigines of Tasmania were radically different in appearance to the Australian Aborigines.
The reason this particular race of Papuans survived the ravages of the Aborigines was due to the Aborigines having lost the art of sea travel, apparently through degeneration from a higher culture. This would have prevented the marauding tribes from traveling across the Bass Strait.
This methodology has now been discredited by most responsible scientists, who have labelled it erratic and highly inaccurate.
Anthropologists have dreamed up the fallacy of 40,000 years of Aboriginal occupation of Australia, based on very little more than Dreamtime myths, and stories told by the Aborigines themselves. What makes this claim suspect is that the Aborigines never had any concept of measured time. The scientists then tried to substantiate their claims by Carbon 14 dating rock art and other organic remains.
If we compare the physiology of the southern Indians and the Australian Aboriginal there is a startling resemblance, which further bolsters the findings of A.C. Haddon.
Queensland Aboriginals: Cannibalism, Infanticide, Abortion, Female and Male Genital Mutilation, and Pack Rape
The following extracts from a paper written by Barrie Reynolds, James Cook University of North Queensland, December 1983 have been typed up from the remnants of a manuscript given to the author by an old farmer from the Mitchell area in the Outback Queensland. Unfortunately, the white ants had a feast on the paper, so some of the manuscript is no longer readable. But what remains is startling enough. The author has been forced to paraphrase parts, as some of the old-fashioned English used in the original report was convoluted and unnecessary.
We begin with an overview of W.E. Roth, and then we will present some of the customs followed by central and northern Queensland Aboriginal tribes.
It was developed in the 1940s by Professor Libby who acknowledged that the method was only good for dating material between 5,000 years and at the most 10,000 years. However scientists have found even these parameters to be far too generous.
Walter Edmond Roth (1861-1933) was born in London, the fifth son of Mathias Roth M.D., a Hungarian patriot in exile. After an early education in France and Germany, Roth went to University College School, London (1868-78) and subsequently to University College for a year, emerging as its first silver medalist in comparative anatomy and biology.
In 1884 Roth graduated with honours in biology from the University of Oxford (1880-84).
He also studied at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital (1884-87).
From there, he traveled to Australia with his two older brothers, Henry Ling and Reuter Emerich Roth.
During his first few years in Australia Roth held a succession of appointments, including teaching positions at Brisbane and Sydney Grammar Schools, with a period between as director of the newly founded South Australian School of Mines and Industries.
In 1894 Roth accepted an appointment to Surgeon to the Boulia, Cloncurry and Normanton Hospitals in north-west Queensland. His four years there laid the foundation for his future career in anthropology and resulted in his first major contribution to Australian ethnography. His 1897 monograph, Ethnological Studies among the North-West Central Queensland Aborigines led to his appointment the following year as Northern Protector of Aborigines, based in Cooktown.
As Northern Protector Roth and A. Meston (the Southern Protector) observed and reported on Aboriginal conditions and culture, and made collections of anthropological material.
In Australia, even today, Roth’s papers on north and central Queensland Aborigines are recognized as outstanding and in some cases unique ethnographic records of Aboriginal language, life and culture at the turn of the 19th century.
The following is from Chapter 13 of his book, which was expunged from the digital copy when it was re-published by Queensland University. Yet another instance of the past being re-written to whitewash it for future generations.
Practice: Cannibalism — Removal of skin from a corpse — Infanticide
(From page 398 to 402 of WE Roth’s Journal)
Among the Brisbane District blacks, variations in burial customs, (particulars were taken down between 1900 and 1902 in the course of conversations with Mr Tom Petrie. There is now no survivor of the Brisbane Aborigines), depended upon whether the deceased were adults or children, male or female, deformed, or not, etc. Whenever a black died or was eaten, the trees in close proximity were nicked around.
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In the case of adults, immediately after death, some old “medicine man”, not necessarily a relative, would cut off the whole genitalia if a male, the clitoris only if a female, wrap them up in grass and place them high up in the fork of a tree: This showed that the sexual instinct was finished with, and to prevent the spirit (nguru) of the dead entering into sexual relations with the living.
The next process depended upon whether the corpse was to be eaten or not; it was eaten if the deceased was a well-known warrior, a medicine-man, a man or woman killed in a fight, or a woman dying suddenly in good condition. (Some reports said they believed cannibalism was practiced to supplement a meager diet).
If determined on eating the body, it was immediately carried legs foremost on the shoulders of two or three old men to a distance of half or three-quarters of a mile from the camp, which was then shifted, the men, women and children following.
When a big fire had been made, the body was laid face downwards on a large sheet of tea-tree bark lying alongside. The others squatted in groups in a circle all round the deceased a few yards distant, each with with its own fire.
One medicine-man now took the sap-wood of an old tree, a piece about a foot long and three or four inches wide, got it well lighted, removed the burning cinders, and while still glowing applied it all over the corpse, except the head and beard, thus singeing off every vestige of hair. This caused the flesh to turn a kind of light brown. He then rubbed the whole body over with his hand to remove all the burnt shreds of outer skin and hair particles.
Standing about one hundreds yards away were three other “doctors”, each holding a stone knife in his mouth; one of them would advance singing, the knife now held in his hand, pass through the circle of scattered groups, and reach the corpse.
If the corpse was a male it lay on its stomach. The newcomer after making a median incision right through the skin from top of the head, along the neck, right down the middle of the back as far as the anus, would then retire to join the groups around the corpse.
The second “medicine-man” would advance in similar fashion and incise from the median cut across the shoulders down the middle of the backs of the arm, forearm, and hand as far as the knuckles. He then went to sit with the groups.
The third “doctor” finished by cutting from the extremity of the of the median incision down along the buttock, the back of each thigh, leg and heel.
If the corpse was a woman it lay on its back, the three incisions being made similarly from the top of the head, right through the middle of the nose and face, down the neck, chest, and belly as far as the fork; the second cut from the fork down to the fronts of the arms to the tips of the palms; and the third from the fork down the fronts of the thighs and legs as far as the insteps.
Two of the doctors next commenced to flay off the skin along these incisions, removing it in one piece with attached toes, fingers, ears, etc. They stuck the skin onto sticks and dried it before the fire.
After the entrails, heart and lungs had been removed, the body was cut up by the doctors and carefully disjointed, its different portions being indiscriminately shared by themselves and the people around them who caught the pieces being thrown at them. Then the body parts were roasted and eaten.
The reasons given for eating the dead were so that the survivors knew where the dead actually were, and so could not be frightened by their spirits. And by eating the corpse it was prevented from going bad and stinking.
The liver was eaten but the rest of the innards were buried, and the spot was marked by three sticks about a foot high, each wound round with grass rope and stuck closely opposed into the ground.
The bones were cleaned and given to the deceased’s mother, widow, or sister. They took the bones back to camp where they struck each bone with a tomahawk-stone, taking care that when a crack appeared they named a particular individual (this was usually some member of another tribe they had a particular “down” on). She continued doing this for each bone, making sure that when the first crack appeared in the bone she repeated the same individuals name.
At the same time the old men would say “Ku-re! Ku-re!” as proof that the person mentioned was actually the one implicated; so much so that when they met with the targeted person he would be put to death, usually by sneaking upon him at night.
After the deceased’s skin had been thoroughly dried, it was covered with charcoal and grease, folded up and carried, together with the bones in a dilly-bag by the mother, widow or sister. They would cry over it for some ten minutes or so regularly at night and at early daybreak.
Portions of the chest and back where the scars were, were given to the women friends of another tribe who, when they got back to their camps, would start another crying match over them.
This giving of the skins denoted that these women’s husbands and their friends were not considered guilty of any wrongdoing; it was a sort of confidential tip that they were not suspected and might visit the tribe of the deceased in safety.
After the skin and bones had been carried about by the women the dilly-bag was finally slung up on top of a forked stick stuck upright within a hollow tree. Several such bags might be placed in the same tree, which was then considered “dimanggala“, meaning taboo.
While the bodies of young boys and girls were never skinned or mutilated, they were put on tree-platforms, unless they died suddenly and were in good enough condition to be eaten by men and women.
The corpse of a very young child was roasted whole and eaten by old women only.
New born babies might be killed and eaten, but only by the old women immediately after birth if the baby had given the mother a lot of pain or trouble. The midwife would screw the infant’s neck round, breaking it by holding the jaw and back of the head. If the mother died in child-birth, the child was deemed guilty of murder and immediately killed and eaten by the old women.
Practice: Infanticide, Abortion, Wife Beating
Page 13, Para 24
On the Lower Tully River (north Queensland) infanticide is fairly common; either sex is destroyed, and it is usually done by the mother. The two main reasons given for the practice here are that the child gave the mother too much pain and trouble coming into the world, or that the mother does not want to be bothered with it.
In the case of twins, the mother will often keep one, and kill the other by choking. She will also kill a child that is born with any deformity. Among the northern tribes infanticide is not considered a crime, provided it is done within the first day or two of the child’s birth. Furthermore, a child may be killed for a crime committed by its parents.
At Cape Grafton, near Cairns, infanticide regardless of sex was prevalent up to 1898 when W.E. Roth was observing the tribes. The mother would throw the baby into the water to drown it, or else suffocate it by throttling. Even though it was accepted, infanticide was usually done clandestinely.
On the Bloomfield River, about 120 kms north of Cairns, infanticide was never prevalent until the Europeans came and half-caste children appeared. The father would stamp on the child’s chest (witnessed by a settler, R. Hislop).
At Cape Bedford, about 30 kms north of Cooktown, children who were born too closely to each other may have been killed, depending on the circumstances. This was to ensure that there was sufficient food for the tribe.
In the North-Western Districts of Queensland Aboriginal fathers killed a child with a blow from a stick, or put it out in the bush to starve.
In the North-Western Districts from Cape Grafton and elsewhere abortion was not uncommon. A thick cord was tightly wound around the abdomen of the woman and then she was punched or beaten with a stick wherever the unborn child’s body was exposed. It was also common for many stillbirths to result from the women fighting among themselves, as well as being knocked about by their husbands.
Practice: Cannibalism – Female Genital Mutilation – Ritual Pack Rape – Introcision
In the Boulia District, about 750 kms north-west of Charleville, children who died suddenly, were eaten by the parents and their blood brothers and sisters only. The reason given was that “putting them along hole” would make them think too much about their beloved little ones!
Evidence was also found that children in Noranside, Roxburgh, and Carandotta were eaten. Mr Edwards of Roxburgh reported witnessing children roasted in a native oven.
Cannibalism was widespread across Queensland.
Ceremonial Female Mutilation in the Boulia District
Among the Pitta-Pitta and neighbouring tribes there is no special corroboree for males coming of age.
A mi-ri in the Pitta-Pitta language is a young girl when she first shows signs of puberty, i.e. the development of breasts and the presence of pubic hair.
Two or three men would take the mi-ri out into the bush, throw her on the ground and then enlarge her vagina by tearing it downwards with the first three fingers wound round with opossum string.
With that done the young bucks came from all directions to have sex with the victim. The bloody semen was collected to give to sick individuals as medicine.
This ceremony was obligatory for all except the higher status women.
Once a woman had been deflowered like this she was eligible to get married. She showed her status by wearing a grass necklace, a human-hair belt, or an opossum-string necklet, belt, etc.
In some other tribes an old woman lured the young girl out into the bush for the men after an old man performed the deflowering with a stone knife and his fingers.
In the Upper Georgina District, about 200 km south of Mt Isa, three men from the Yaroinga tribe under the leadership of one of her future husband’s brothers would catch the young woman and throw her down lengthways, face upwards upon the back of one of the men lying face down on the ground. She was held down as another man performed the cutting ceremony. Then she was decorated in red, white and bluish green colours. From that moment on she was temporarily on loan to her future husband’s friends and others in the camp. After the ceremony she was entitled to wear a white forehead band, etc.
In areas where this was practiced men also go through a similar painful “introcision”, which opens up a more or less considerable extent of the penile portion of the urethra. The unfortunate victim was thrown down to lie on the back of an individual lying face downwards. His limbs were held by several males, while another male sat astride him. The operator sat on the ground in front and made a superficial incision through skin only extending from the external meatus down to near the scrotal patch. The rest of the operation varied according to each tribe, but in essence the penis is mutilated.
No male or female was allowed to marry until they had gone through the ordeal.
Tribal punishment, customary law & payback
Aboriginal tribal law is often seen as harsh and brutal, but it ensured order and discipline. Payback is the most known form of customary law.
Payback has survived until today and is still practiced, which leads to conflicts between white law and tribal law.
Spearing as Punishment
One of the traditional tribal punishments is spearing where the victim gets speared in the leg. This type of punishment is often shown in Aboriginal movies and imposed if you don’t follow the tribal law.
Aboriginal man Henry Long knows a thing or two about receiving a spearing.
“I got speared in the leg, too, for being cheeky. I got hit on the head, too, by all my old people. The spear came out of the calf of the leg. My old father did that. I was a cheeky bloke fighting the other fellas over some silly things I been doing in my young days. I was going with the wrong girls. My skin group is Milangka. I was with someone from a wrong skin group…
“After you’ve taken your punishment then people don’t worry about you.”
‘Singing’ a person
Being ‘sung’, sometimes also referred to as ‘pointing the bone’, is an Aboriginal custom where a powerful elder is believed to have the power to call on spirits to do ill to another Aboriginal person alleged to have committed a crime or otherwise abused their culture.
Singing a person might still be practiced today. Paul Clune recounts an incident in Perth:
“In March this year  I sat and intermittently spoke for two hours beside a tribal man at Royal Perth Hospital who’d flown to Perth from Broome that morning. He was there because his 40-year-old large, long, tribal initiation chest scars had inexplicably and suddenly erupted into festering pus wounds.
“He and I gently acknowledged that he had more than likely been sung by a Featherfoot.”
A ‘featherfoot’ (or kurdaitcha man in Arrernte) denotes a sorcerer in Aboriginal spirituality.
Traditionally Aboriginal law was decided in councils of men and they decided matters of the land and its boundaries. These men met on law grounds which were usually within the boundaries of a tribes’ country. Some of these law grounds however were on the boundary itself, hence accessible for both tribes. This enabled Aboriginal people of both tribes to meet together without crossing other people’s lands.
Law grounds were used not only for councils but also to put young Aboriginal men and women through traditional law. If each parent was from a different tribal group they could decide between them where each child of theirs would be initiated and at which tribe’s law ground.
So much for the fiction of the peaceful hunter/gathering Aborigines. They were no better and certainly much worse than the colonizing white man. They have benefited immensely from the white man’s colonization, gaining a longer lifespan, better health, and education. Nor have they lost any so-called “sacred land”. As Australian citizens they are just as entitled to own and develop any land anywhere as much as a white man.
As for claims by Aboriginal activists that so many of them in jail are “political prisoners”, it is clear this is arrant nonsense. They are in jail because they broke the law of the land. Under our Constitution, which now recognizes Aboriginals as human beings and equal to all other Australians, they are bound to observe our laws.
The fact is, the Aboriginals never developed a cohesive nation because they practiced a basic form of Communism. When no one owns anything because it is the property of the whole tribe, then there is no incentive to build and grow a better society. After all, why bother?
After a few hundred centuries, almost certainly not 40,000 years, of Communism the Aboriginals failed to develop beyond the basic primitive culture they arrived with.
A nation that ignores their history is doomed to repeat its mistakes