The Significance of Land in Aboriginal Culture

To Aboriginal Australians, land means considerably more than dirt, rocks, and minerals. The land is a living ecosystem that supports and is supported by people and their way of life.

Before colonisation, indigenous people’s connection to the land influenced all other aspects of their lives. Even today, many indigenous people’s identity and way of life are still shaped by their affinity with the land. The land has spiritual, physical, social, and cultural significance for Aboriginal people. Aboriginal health and employment are dependent on land management and care. This is why many Aboriginal artists depict the relationship between indigenous communities and their land.

Aboriginal connection to country

So, what does country mean to Aboriginals? The country is much more than just a place for Aboriginal people to be at or go home to. The ancestors, who continue to roam the earth, water, and sky, created rocks, trees, rivers, hills, animals, and human beings out of the same matter. The country is full of connections that speak a common language and follow the law, whether they are human, rock, crow, or something else entirely.

The country is adored, required, and cared for; in turn, it adores, requires, and cares for its people. Connection to one’s country is about identity, culture, and family — in short, the self is one with the country.

Indigenous people’s deep spiritual connection to the land, Aboriginal law and spirituality are inextricably linked to the people and their creations or artefacts, forming their culture and concept of sovereignty. Each community member is entrusted with the knowledge and responsibility to care for their land, meaning it’s directly tied to their purpose and sense of belonging. This deep spiritual connection to the country is reflected in their language, with many concepts and words having no English equivalent.

Their culture revolves around the preservation of Aboriginal land and water. They consider the land as their mother. This concept is ingrained in their culture and entails responsibility for its (indigenous land) preservation.

In a way, any issues with the land or country are a source of personal pain.

Indigenous connection to the land and the importance of this relationship

The relationship of indigenous people with the land is a sacred thing. Aboriginal languages depict the land as a living, breathing entity that deserves respect, love, and care. That is why removing Aboriginal people from their ancestral lands has been so destructive, as losing land means losing their identity, language, and culture.

Living in a city also comes with its own set of challenges for Aboriginal people. They feel a disconnect from the grey buildings, concrete pavement, and shiny new construction work.

When referring to Aboriginal people’s relationships to their land, some use the terms ‘custodians’ or ‘owners’. However, Aboriginal people’s preferences vary greatly; some reject the term ‘owner’, while others embrace it.

Finding the appropriate words to explain indigenous people’s deep relationship with the land is difficult. Most agree they were the owners, occupiers, custodians, and caretakers of the land when it was taken away from them, while others find it hard to explain or express the depth of that relationship.

 

A spiritual relationship


Given the loss of land and culture impacts aboriginals due to their spiritual ties to the country, Aboriginal people feel obligated to care for cultural sites that function as living museums of their ancestors. Places of significance include Dreaming and archaeological sites, water sources, and burial grounds.

Ceremonial rites assist them in renewing or rebuilding their spiritual relationship to the land and the sacred locations they protect.

Today, with a native title, people can gain access to traditional lands. However, obtaining this title is a lengthy, expensive, and complicated procedure.

Aboriginal cultural heritage sites are an important part of the Aboriginal culture not only because they provide material evidence of the lifestyles of their ancestors but because of their spiritual connection to land and country. Across the board, their lifestyle and religious traditions are inextricably linked to land preservation — that’s why uproar is heard when insensitive development plans are formally announced.