Generation after generation
of Aborigines built up knowledge of their terrain and
the ways of its flora and fauna. Over time this
knowledge became a set of rules for survival - a stock
of wisdom transformed into ritual and taboo.
This in turn locked clans into the particular stretch
of territory they occupied, each with land marks that
became associated with powerful, unpredictable spirits
who had to be appeased in order to ensure the clan's
Binding everything together
across the whole continent was a body of oral
tradition and vibrant imagery now referred to as
This harked back to the dawn of creation, when
Ancestral Spirits roamed the Earth and conjured
everything into existence. These spirits became
incorporated into features in the landscape, and so
remained a constant presence. Individuals had
their own 'dreaming', a personal totem in the form of
a plant or animal, and each clan had it's own
'dreaming track' - an oral map that defined it's
territorial range and was handed down in song.
this way, Australia was crisscrossed with invisible
tracks linking clan with clan in mystical kinship with
nature, and making every person the effective guardian
of a little bit of creation. There were no
leaders, no priests, no armies, no sense of property,
since anything which could not easily be carried from
campfire to campfire was an encumbrance. As the
modern Aborigine poet Oodgeroo put it:
'We don't own the land.
The land owns us.'
The massive sandstone rock known as Uluru is
perhaps the best known image of Australia. In
Aboriginal culture it's an important meeting point of
the 'dreaming tracks', the crisscrossing mythical and
sacred tracks that mark the journeys their ancestors
made as they moulded the landscape.