Aboriginal v. American Culture

Day 6:

We started our morning off with a lecture by Mary Graham, a Kombu-merri person who works as a consultant for the Kummara Association, an indigenous family support center in Brisbane. She gave us a greater insight into the history and lives of Australian aboriginals. This talk particularly struck me because her perspective on so many huge aspects of daily life drastically differed from mine, which provoked a lot of deep thinking.

Mary Graham gives a lecture on aboriginal history; May 2016


Mary Graham said that origin is of the upmost importance to aboriginal people, so much so that they introduce themselves by their name, then their mother and father’s countries, and then their languages spoken. They do not even mention their occupation. Their identity is patented into locality. Graham said that their unofficial motto is “I am located, therefore I am.” I can relate to her emphasis of the importance of locality because I am proud of my Texan roots and consider my hometown to be a huge part of my identity. However, I do not believe that your identity roots solely in your locality.


Graham said that aboriginals believe in the freedom of religion, but traditionally hold the belief that there is no god, heaven, or hell. They believe that the land invented us and hold many scientific beliefs to be sacred. As a born and raised Catholic who attended Catholic schools for 11 years, this was the perspective I struggled with understanding the most. I am very tolerant of those who come from different backgrounds than myself and believe that there are rays of truth in many religions, which made it was very interesting to hear about her people’s spirituality and belonging to the land. While I do not personally agree with the presented beliefs, I learned to still appreciate her belief system and its history.


Graham taught us that every different aboriginal group has a dreaming story that can only be shared if granted permission. These stories have been passed down over thousands of years through oral tradition. These stories make up a huge portion of the group’s identity. While we have stories that have been passed down over time, we do not put such an emphasis on oral tradition. We do not hesitate to post our thoughts and stories to the Internet or publish them in a book.


In aboriginal groups, there are often marital arrangements from the womb. I personally could not fathom living in a world where I could not choose who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with or raise a family with, but the aboriginal culture places a huge emphasis on the group over the individual. They actually believe so strongly in this that 60-70% of their people wanted nothing to do with democracy. Democracy, on the other hand, is at the core of American culture.

Aboriginal Australia Map; Credit: Indigenous InStyle

Although I have a very different outlook on life than Mary Graham, I found her talk to be very eye-opening. It helped me to broaden my perspective and view the world in a new way, which I think is the most important aspect of studying abroad. My goal is to come home seeing the world in a whole new way, and I can already catch myself questioning my surroundings and trying to put things in others’ perspectives.

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