Held at Sydney Opera House
For any occasion
Think Inside The Circle
Barangaroo Sydney 2017
Yeah, anyway, along time ago, way before Jesus or Mohamed walked the earth, the ancestors of today's Australian Aboriginal people walked all the way from Africa towards South East Asia and then island hoped their way through the archipelagos of what is now Indonesia all the way to Australia. I guess that them fellas where the pioneers of going 'Walkabout', a tradition my people, the Kamilaroi people, and most other first nations people of Australia still keep up today.
Now that long walk must have taken a years and back then there are no clear tribes or an accepted origin of the indigenous people of Australia, but it does look like Aboriginal people where among the first to migrate out of Africa some 25,000 years before the next mob walked over to Europe and Asia. This walkabout took a slight break over a long time while some of the people jumped into canoes and island hoped there way to Australia only to continue the walkabout trail across the continent to Tasmania. This walk was the start of the longest constant human lineage and most continuous culture on the planet, The Australian Aborigine. Not bad, not bad at all if I do say so myself. But don't take my word for it, Check out what them crazy scientists reckon. Read more here....
A recent discovery in 2016 at a site in South Australia, known as Warratyi, shows Aboriginal Australians settled the arid interior of the country around 49,000 years ago and lived in this area until 46,000 years ago. Among the other significant artefact finds at the site was the earliest-known use of ochre in Australia and South-East Asia. See here for more details
Now, since the earliest migrants to Australia had spread across the continent and started all the different aboriginal nations and languages, with each first nations people learning different survival techniques, Aboriginal people have over thousands of years, become very affiliated with, and were dependent of the land and sea. And the walkabout trail was still blazing. So it was about 40,000 years ago that the most serious brothers and sisters walked across what is now Bass Straight, right over to Tasmania before the oceans rose up and created our southern most state. And they did this way before Moses from the bible played the same party trick at the Red Sea.
Now, since the earliest migrants to Australia had spread across the continent and started all the different aboriginal nations and languages, with each first nations people learning different survival techniques, Aboriginal people have over thousands of years, become very affiliated with, and were dependent of the land and sea. And the walkabout trail was still blazing. So it was about 40,000 years ago that the most serious brothers and sisters walked across what is now Bass Straight, right over to Tasmania before the oceans rose up and created our southern most state. And they did this way before Moses from the bible played the same party trick on the Red Sea.
From this date-line, a recent and very important discovery has been made. That of the 42,000 year old remains of Mungo Man who was discovered in 1974 near Lake Mungo in New South Wales. Mungo Man is the oldest human remains yet found outside of Africa. Now Mungo man musta been a great hunter because anthropologist reckon he lived until he was 50 year old and that his family carefully buried him in the lunette, on his back with his hands crossed in his lap, and sprinkled with red ocher. Mungo Mans elbow bone was also very worn away and arthritic from using a hunting tool called a Woomera to throw spears while hunting the now extinct, and very big and very dangerous megafauna. Distant relatives of today's marsupials that inhabit Australia. Some say they may even be the Bunyips and Rainbow serpents in the dream-time.
Mungo Lady, also discovered nearby, is the oldest known cremation in the world, representing the early emergence of humanity's spiritual beliefs.
Moving on, some scientists studies indicate that Aboriginal Australians, the indigenous peoples of New Guinea and the Mamanwa, an indigenous people of the southern Philippines are closely related, having diverged from a common origin approximately 36,000 years ago. Interesting stuff hey? Now I am sure there is a lot of other stories to tell from those times. So listen carefully to the dream-time stories and you just might here the ancestors yarns and stories in our song-lines of today.
And for the next long long time, the ancestors lived happily across Australia hunting and fishing and going walkabout.
Around 21,000 years ago, during the time that the very first migrants where moving into North America and the residents of Europe's oldest known human permanent settlement found in Europe where dining on some succulent woolly mammoth steaks, Australian Aboriginal people had been living, hunting, fishing and living it up on the walkabout trail for a real long time when along came a dirty freezing cold ice-age to take the smile of our peoples faces.This was a period of huge change and the population of aboriginal peoples declined and everyone that didn't get frozen cold moved to small pockets of land near water ways where there was shelter and still some tasty bush tucker.
The sea level dropped to around 140 meters below its present day level. Australia was connected to New Guinea and the Kimberley region of Western Australia was separated from Southeast Asia by a strait approximately 90 km wide. Rainfall decreased by 40% to 50% depending on region. Ice sheets hold a massive amount of carbon and these lower CO2 levels in the atmosphere meant that vegetation required twice as much water to photosynthesize and make oxygen. A double edged sword.
The Kimberley region including the adjacent exposed continental Sahul Shelf, was covered by vast grasslands dominated by flowering plants of the family poaceae with woodlands and semi-arid scrub covering the shelf joining New Guinea to Australia. South/east of the Kimberley, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to northern Tasmania the land, (Areas including the western and southern margins of the now exposed continental shelfs, were covered largely by extreme cold deserts and sand dunes. It is believed that no more than 15% of Australia supported trees of any kind during this period.
While some tree cover remained in the south east of Australia, the vegetation on the wetter coastal areas in this region were semi-arid savannah while some tropical rainforests survived in isolated coastal areas of Queensland. Tasmania was covered primarily by cold steppe and alpine grasslands with snow pines at lower altitudes.
The aboriginal people had a devastating reduction populations, and there would seem to have been scattered mobs in small areas which they could survive. Corridors between these different people seem to be routes by which people kept in contact, Communication was done through "Songlines" which still exist today in some regions.
Now as the ice age came to an end, all the people that had managed to stay in touch through song-lines along the narrow corridors that still sustained life during this 10,000 year period, finally got out to soak up some sun, warm up the bones and dance and sing and hunt more sustainable tucker once again. The people again filled the land with many nations and some 600 tribal languages. Aboriginal people in Australia have their own history and this is just starting to be understood. But it is thanks to the ancestors that kept that old history alive since the dream-time by maintaining these song-lines during tough times that has allowed this understanding to re-emerge.
With the warming of the weather, around 6000 years ago, the sea levels again rose enough to separate New Guinea for the Australian main land and separate the populations between those two land masses. Ancient song-lines demonstrate the maintaining of aboriginal knowledge perfectly in this situation. Following the Ice Age, Aboriginal people around the continental coast, from Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and the south west of Western Australia, all tell stories of former territories that were drowned beneath the sea with the rising coastlines after the Ice Age. This event is also responsible for isolating the Tasmanian Aboriginal people on their island, and probably led to the extinction of Aboriginal cultures on the Bass Strait Islands and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
There had been a long history of contact between Papua peoples, Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal people around Cape York which still remains today. But evidence now shows that there where relationships stretching far beyond our closest neighbors. The introduction of the dingo to Australia, possibly as early as 4000 years ago, showed that contact with South East Asian peoples would have been ongoing well after the rising of the oceans. It comes along the form of some little Aussie battlers and a nasty little pest. The closest genetic connection to the dingo is the wild dogs of Thailand. Dingoes began and evolved in Asia. The earliest known dingo-like fossils are from Ban Chiang in north-east Thailand dated at 5,500 years and from north Vietnam dating to 5,000 years ago. This contact was not just one way, as now scientists have found genetic connection in kangaroo ticks and ticks living on these dogs in South East Asia today.
Now, back in Australia where all the people where hunting, dining, dancing and singing good old earth sent Australia another hum dinger in the form of a 1500 year drought. Now talk about adaptation of the land hey? And Aboriginal people survived through Ice Age and desertification.
In the interior, this led to the recolonisation of the desert and semi-desert areas by Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. This migration brought with it the spread of those cultural languages of the Pama-Nyungan language phylum, and secondarily responsible for the spread of male initiation rites involving circumcision.
Brrrrrrrr, that's enough to make your eyes water.
Isolated from western world influences for 50,000 years or so, the Aboriginal peoples developed their own way of life and history shared in accordance with regional religious and spiritual beliefs of the Dreamtime, the Indigenous time of creation. Then, in 1770 Captain James Cook landed on these shores for his king and country. Well, that broke the drought, that's for sure.
Recently, there have been discoveries of Aboriginal rock art in caves depicting white men in trousers and on sailing vessels off the coast of Northern Territory suggesting contact was made long before Captain James Crook landed here. There is also clear evidence of Portuguese ship wrecks in places like Byron Bay in NSW and Port Phillip Bay in Victoria dating back to the 1600's and Dutch sailors that where ship wrecked from the Batavia in Western Australia in 1629. And there is plenty of chance these sailors and traders crossed paths with Aboriginal Australians and possibly even traded with the people of what is now Northern Territory and North Western Australia, as they already traded along the archipelagos of Indonesia in that era.
Unfortunately European settlement had a severe and devastating impact on Australia's first nations peoples. Their dispossession of the land, exposure to new diseases and involvement in violent conflict, resulted in the death of a vast number of the Aboriginal peoples. The small percentage of Aboriginal people who did not die during these early decades of the colony, were not unaffected. The impact of the white settlers changed aboriginal lives forever. But just like the 70,000 year walkabout, the 10,000 year Ice Age and the 1500 year drought before this most recent chapter, the first nations people are again recovering thanks to the ancient song-lines told through the corridors of time that have always kept the people strong during hard times. Culture that started in this country some 58,000 years before the last Egyptian Pharaoh ended his reign is again becoming strong and helping to shape the way all Australians think.
And it is just around the end of this period of time that myself, Russell Dawson started to perform indigenous song and dance and tell of the song lines of my direct ancestors form the Kamilaroi people and from elders that have graciously shared their song-lines with me from across the east coast of Australia so that I can teach the next generations of people. First nations people stay strong through the celebration of our beautiful culture, and the ancient songlines live on in modern day Australia through us.
"The Dance Trope provided an outstanding Traditional Welcome to our foreign and local guests. The performance presented an educational and entertaining view into Australia’s rich cultural heritage. Thank you for contributing a special start to our conference.”
Previous Executive Director - Passports Office
"I have known Russell and Connie Dawson from the Koomurri Aboriginal dance group for a long time. I have used their professional services in community events and I have found them to be punctual, courteous and take their profession and Aboriginal dance and culture very seriously. "
Dr. Jamal Rifi
"We are most grateful to the dancers for their most professional performance of a very moving dance sequence which provided a special dimension to the ceremony. We would have no hesitation in recommending the Koomurri Dance Troupe to anyone thinking of engaging their services.”
Assistant Director - Anglican School Office
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