Chapter 9 Religion and belief systems in Australia post-1945 (HSC)
Activities (p. 203)
1 Re-read the material on the Dreaming in Chapter 1 pages 17-27. Why is the Dreaming so interconnected with the land?
The Dreaming structures Aboriginal life by regulating kinship, ceremonial life and the relationship between male and female, with a network of obligations involving people, land and spirits. It affects the rights of Aboriginal people to land through sacred sites. Within the Dreaming, the Creator, through the Spirit Beings, shaped the land, making its mountains, valleys, hills, gullies, rivers, streams, flora and fauna. These are formed as a result of the action and interaction of the Spirit Beings. As a result, the whole of creation is of spiritual significance. Sacred sites are places associated with Ancestral Beings. In this way the Aboriginal people are inextricably bound to the rest of creation.
2 In small groups discuss the impact this relationship between the Dreaming and the land may have on Aboriginal people today, including political activities.
Activities (p. 204)
1 Define ‘totemism’.
Totemism refers to an entity such as a plant, animal or natural object that has become the totem or emblem of an individual or a language group. A totem is believed to link a person to the spiritual force responsible for their existence.
2 What is the role of ceremonies in relation to totemism?
A ceremony is the means of enacting and formalising the totemic relationship.
3 What is meant by Aboriginal religion being ‘holistic and living’?
Every aspect of life is encompassed in the Dreaming. Whilst the Dreaming can refer to the time of Creation it also concerns the present and the future. Hence it is both holistic and living.
4 Research aboriginal values and compare these with the values of another tradition such as Christianity. What similarities and differences occur? Why do you think these differences or similarities have evolved?
Student answers will vary.
Activity (p. 205)
In an extended response explain the statement ‘Aboriginal spirituality is expressed through the Dreaming, through the land and people, and through totems, values and kinship systems.’
Student work will vary.
Activities (p. 207)
1 Outline the initiation ceremonies for males and females.
For boys, circumcision marks the transition from boyhood to manhood. They learn about skin relationships as well as kinship, land and ceremonial obligations. A boy’s relationship and behaviour towards females changes at this time. He is taught who he can approach and how to know what behaviour is acceptable or not acceptable.
For a girl, initiation ceremonies begin with her being sent to an isolated area at the onset of puberty. The old women teach the girl her new responsibilities, how her roles change and how to behave when married. After her period, she is taken to the nearest river or billabong where she will be ritually bathed, painted and decorated and led back to her community. She will now be treated as a woman.
2 What are the similarities and differences?
The initiation of boys is more complex than it is for girls, requiring vigorous training and learning. More community members are involved in a boy’s initiation. A girl’s initiation is restricted to female relatives.
3 Why do males and females place importance on different aspects of initiation?
The different aspects of the initiation are to prepare the person for their future life as adult members of their society.
4 Why is ceremony such a key part of initiation?
It is the recognition of the new status of the person by the adult community.
5 Why are funeral ceremonies so important to Aboriginal people?
It is important that the spirit of the deceased be carried back to a specific Ancestral Being’s land, and that the responsibilities of the deceased be passed on. To aid this, the person’s skinline must be acknowledged.