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Australia’s Aboriginal people have the oldest continuous culture on Earth and are believed to have arrived from Indonesia by boat more than 50,000 years ago.
At the time of European settlement there were up to one million Aboriginal people living in Australia as hunters and gatherers, scattered across 500 different clans. Each clan had a strong spiritual connection with their land (which continues today), but travelled widely to find water, trade seasonal produce and form ritual gatherings.
All Aboriginal people share the belief in the Dreaming (‘Tjukurrpa’) where ancestor spirits continue to link the past, the present, the people and the land. These stories are regaled in the culture through song, dance, painting and tales.
The colonisation of Australia had a devastating impact on the Aboriginal people through dispossession of their land, illness and death from introduced diseases, as well as a huge disruption to their traditional lifestyle. However, recognition of this impact has more recently seen the return of large tracts of land, positive changes to past policies and the resurgence of efforts to safeguard and foster the culture.
Australia houses a huge variety of animals shaped by the unique climate and geology of the continent. More than 80% of the plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians are not found anywhere else in the world.
Some of the best-known animals include the kangaroo, koala, echidna, dingo, platypus, wallaby, wombat, Tasmanian devil and bandicoot. Unique in design, lifestyle and behaviours, the kangaroo and wallaby in particular are commonly spotted roaming across rural Australia.
The birdlife is just as varied and the sounds and sights in the skies are evident from the moment you enter the country. The first to be heard are the rowdy cockatoos, followed by the hackle of the ravens and the giggle of the kookaburras. Many homes experience a regular balcony visit from the brilliant rainbow lorikeets, while city commuters share pavement space with the white ibis which is often nicknamed the Dumpster Diver.
Of course, the country is also widely recognised for its dangerous animals, with sharks, spiders, snakes and crocodiles getting the majority of the bad press. However, the fearsome reputation is unfounded and on average there are only 5 deaths a year relating to these creatures, while 20 people die a year from horse riding accidents, and 10 from bee stings.