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AboriginesAborigines or Aboriginal - Which Word to Use?


Aborigines or Aboriginal? What is the correct word to use to refer to the indigenous inhabitants of Australia? This is a complex question with several answers. The complexity arises not only from the fact that there are many different indigenous peoples in Australia (Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander people as well) but also from the recent history of occupation of the continent.

The word "aborigine" is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

1. an aboriginal (the first or earliest known of its kind present in a region) inhabitant especially as contrasted with an invading or colonizing people
2. a member of any of the indigenous peoples of Australia

Many Australian Aboriginal people dislike the term "Aborigines" because it has been imposed on them during the course of colonisation. Some also dislike "Aboriginal", although it is widely used (though preferably as an adjective, as in "Aboriginal peoples").

There has therefore been a widespread adoption in many parts of Australia of alternative words, usually the word for "person" from a local indigenous language.

For example, the word "koori" has become used extensively across south eastern Australia. Some languages of south-east Australia (parts of New South Wales and Victoria) had a word - coorie, kory, kuri, kooli, koole - which meant 'person' or 'people'. The word koori was recorded as early as 1886, being in used by the Aborigines from the Riverina and Victorian regions. In the 1960s it came to be used in the form koori by Aborigines of these areas to mean 'Aboriginal people' or 'Aboriginal person'.

In other regions different words have been adopted: Murri over most of south and central Queensland, Bama in north Queensland, Nunga in southern South Australia, Noongar (Nyoongah) around Perth, Wongi in the Kalgoorlie region, Yolngu in Arnhem Land, Anangu in central Australia, Yuin on the south coast of New South Wales and Palawa in Tasmania.

Source: Australian National Dictionary Centre

Relevant Web Links:

Aboriginal Studies WWW Virtual Library
Aboriginal Languages of Australia
Murri sites on the Net
Noongar Nation


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