In some tribes of Central Australia, when a warring expedition was to be organized, a strong warrior was chosen by the elders so that his blood, while alive, might be drunk by warriors of the tribe who would also smear their bodies with it to share in his bravery. During this performance the chosen warrior was never expected to refuse or to shrink from his ordeal.
Similarly, in some of the aborigines, the relatives of a deceased person eat portions of his body, and when questioned once about it they answered: “We eat him because we knew him and were very fond of him.”
In some of the tribes, the old men of tribe are killed often at their own request, and eaten by their children, relations, and friends, who think it better to keep their parents in the warmth of their bailies than in the lonely hot or cold of the earth.
Contact with the Europeans, from the 19th century “pacification by force” to the urban assimilation of the present day, radically altered the aboriginal culture.
To prevent what was the possible disintegration of the aborigines, the government established reserve in the late 1920s and early 1930s. No aborigines exist who have not had some contact with the modern Australian society, and all are now Australian citizens.
Recent decades have seen the emergence of more articulate part aboriginal groups in the south, who insist on integration rather than assimilation, i.e., on retaining aboriginal identity as a unique status symbol marking them off from other Australians.
In the north, the focus has been on questions of Undownership and control, including compensation (and not merely royalties) for a share and in the mineral exploitation that is occurring on the aboriginal reserves.
Despite all these efforts, the aboriginals have poor physique, suffer from malnutrition and undernourishment. They are uneducated, unskilled, and unemployed.
There are glaring disparities in the standard of living of the whites and the aboriginals. In fact, they are underprivileged and still often discriminated upon.
There are still many Aboriginals who stay in humpies and windbreak. They possess little furniture with most people sleeping on blankets, or on a piece of mat. Food and personal possessions are stored on top of humpies or hanging from trees away from dogs and children.
The environment exercises a decisive influence in shaping the mode of life of the aboriginals. In North-West Central Queensland, they find seeds, roots, fruits, and vegetables, flowers and honey, insects and crustaceans, frogs, lizards, fish and crocodiles (where there are streams), turkey, bustards, pigeons, emus, bandicoots, opossums, and kangaroos.
They have no hoes, do no agriculture, and their weapons are rudimentary. Some of their hunting techniques show great resourcefulness.
Thus, on occasion when a kangaroo is sighted, the native may set out after it on the run. He keeps after it all day and at night both he and his prey settle down to sleep where they find themselves.
By the next morning, the muscles of kangaroo are so stiff from the unaccustomed steady pace he has been forced to keep that the hunter soon catches up with him.
It is then a question of closing in for the kill with the club that is the weapon the aborigine uses in hunting this animal feat calling for bravery and then waiting for the rest of the group, who have been following the trail left by hunter and hunted, to come up for the feast.
At present, all aborigines are now Australian citizens and are no longer subject to restrictive legislation. They are eligible to vote and to receive social service benefits.
In recent years they have been involved in political protests, particularly over land rights, housing and health, and political representation at all levels.
Thus, the aboriginals of Australia, with relatively simple technologies, harsh habitat and very limited economic resources, have adapted very well in their pervasive natural settings.