However, genome analysis of an Aborigine reveals that these early Australians took part in the first human migration out of Africa. They were the first to arrive in Asia some 70,000 years ago, roaming the area at least 24,000 years before the ancestors of present-day Europeans and Asians. They were also the first to live in Australia, arriving about 65,000 years ago.
During this span of time they developed their culture largely free from outside influence. They had over 200 different languages and many local traditions.
Aborigines mastered the challenges of living in a harsh environment. There is evidence they planted crops, diverted streams and maintained grasslands by deliberate burning in order to attract game for food. After thousands of years of independence from outside influence, their life changed dramatically with the arrival of Europeans.
By the time of European settlement in 1788, estimates of Aboriginal population vary from 300,000 to more than 1,000,000.
The frontier was a wild and uncontrolled one for a long period. Aboriginal peoples in some areas used their superior bushcraft to wage prolonged and effective guerrilla campaigns until they were finally overwhelmed by force of arms. In the period of “pacification by force,” up to the 1880s, a large number of Aboriginal people were killed. Others were driven into the bush, remaining in small pockets subject to the “civilizing” influence of missions, or were left to fend for themselves in the fringe settlements of cities and towns; still others remained in camps.
Reserves were established in the late 1920s and early ’30s to serve as a buffer between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans. It was not until the 1960s that the frontier period finally ended, with the move into settlements of the last few nomadic groups. Their traditional life has nearly ceased to exist, though continuities with the past remain important in the values and modes of behavior surrounding kinship and social relations.
In 1962, the Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended so that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could vote.