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Aboriginal Spirituality and Dispossession

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Aboriginal Spirituality and Dispossession

The effect of dispossession on the Aboriginal people has tainted all aspects of their life and culture, but particularly their spirituality. The term dispossession implies the removal or withdrawal from something, in the case of the Aboriginals this incorporates separation from the physical land, separation from kinship groups and the removal of children from their families- "the Stolen Generations". These traumatic forms of dispossession destroyed the spirituality of Aboriginals and have had a significant ongoing effect- even today the indigenous people of Australia and society as a whole are influenced by its repercussions.

Perhaps the most significant and well recognized of the forms of dispossession undertaken upon the Aboriginal people was in 1778- that is, when the land of Australia was first settled. Due to the absence of built establishments and farmed land the European settlers of the First Fleet officially recognized Australia as 'terra nullius'- empty land or land belonging to no one, even though the Aboriginal people had lived there for thousands of years beforehand. At first the Europeans believed the indigenous people to be a "dying race... to smooth over" but they soon realized that the Aboriginals were not going to simply give up their precious land. In order to control the Aboriginals, they were placed in reserves and missions under a policy coined as "protection" which meant limiting Aboriginal movement on their rightful land, and of course a devastation of their tribes.

The removal of the Aboriginal people from their land was ruinous to their spirituality. Aboriginal belief systems are centered on establishing a strong connection to the land and nature and their belief that sacred 'ancestral beings' also inhabited and created the land in a time called "the Dreaming". Aboriginals also believe they "are one with the land" and formed many elaborate rituals and ceremonies based on these beliefs. When these people were taken from their native land they lost contact with their spirituality, ancient customs and traditions and their sense of identity. In fact, these issues are reflected in society today, with many Aboriginals feeling they don't belong, or they don't know who they really are. With this questioning of identity comes a reliance on drugs and alcohol, poverty and bad health, a myriad of problems that neither the government nor society in general wish to acknowledge.

The second form of dispossession to the Aboriginal people was separation from their kinship or tribal groups. In Aboriginal societies the term kinship describes the "complex and sophisticated network of relationships, rights and obligation" that are fundamental to the way traditions and customs are passed on. Indigenous Aboriginals have inherent



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