Traditions and Kinship Ties 

Traditions & Kinship Ties

Kinship, like everywhere else, is based upon blood relations, marriage, all those of the same culture and linguistic grouping. The native Australian is divided into clans, even within the same language group. This system dictates who may marry whom – which prevents incest, and leads to forming strong bonds across clans through exogamous relations. It also prepares the way for the obligation to take care of others in times of need.

They have a deep relation and love of the land. They believe in the oneness of the land and all that live on it – so everything moves in unison. Each clan is tied by kinship to a particular landscape, the significance of which is related to their religious beliefs.

Some common kinship ties:

Aunty and uncle – used to address all elders.

Brother and sister – includes all close relatives of the same generation, not just siblings.

Cousins – includes any relative of one’s own generation. The combination of cousin-brother and cousin-sister are used to refer to biological cousins

Father and mother – includes any relative of one’s parent’s generation, such as uncles, aunts, and in-laws.

Grandfather and grandmother – can refer to anyone of one’s grandparents’ generation or a respected elderly man

“Poison” refers to a relation one is obligated to avoid

Son – can refer to any male of the younger generation, such as nephews.


Marriage was an important part of maintaining the social fabric of the lives of the Koori. It always took place between clans, forming ties between them. Each marriage was carefully contemplated by the female elders, taking into consideration every aspect. Through marriage, people were able to access other territory within Australia that was clan bound.


It was difficult for outsiders to understand, that children are not considered the possession of the biological parents alone, but are considered to be that of the entire community, both male and female. This responsibility involves care, education, and discipline. There is emphasis in the child learning about their relationship to the social and natural environment. One of the ways in doing this is through storytelling, which plays a large role in native culture. They use storytelling to teach children how they should behave and why, to learn about creation, about how and when to find food, about nature, their history and their culture. Because storytelling plays such a large role, a story can be told whilst walking, or cooking, as well as around the night time camp fire. Once the children become adults, they are responsible for passing on the stories to other children. Storytelling stills plays a large role, but now they have professional story tellers!


The elders are respected the most, and their guidance is sought after and greatly valued, because their knowledge, and skills of the past, and the present. Children are considered the future carriers of identity of their culture.


Religious knowledge was a life-long quest that began with initiation into adulthood, and was possible for both females and males. Division of labor was essentially gender-based. Men hunted large game, whilst women concentrated on smaller animals. In coastal areas, both men and women fished.

Decision Making

Each clan held together, because members had the same perception and understanding of life. There was no single leader, but a group of leaders, or elders. When there was any trouble, the offended was allowed to throw a spear at the offender, and a dance of reconciliation followed in some clans, in others there might be a feud or other forms of non-violent reconciliation.

Many indigenous Australians, particularly in the southeast of Australia, have lost this knowledge due to their forced removal to missions and children’s homes where cultural practices were forbidden.

“In Aboriginal Society, the family is very large and extended, often with ties to the community. Having that family unit broken down has just opened the floodgates for a lot of problems, a lot of emotional problems, mental and physical turmoil. If you want to use a really hard term to describe the impact that removal of Aboriginal children has had on Aboriginal families, “attempted cultural genocide: is a good phrase” – Carol Kendal “Indigenous People and the Law”.

Dreamtime.Net. “Indigenous Australia: Family

Jagodzinska, K. Dreamtime

CorangAmite CMA. Our Precious Heritage

Australian Indigenous Art Aboriginal Art & Culture

• Back to: People of the Dreamtime

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