Deakin University
charles-survivalofaboriginalaus-2020.pdf (2.62 MB)

The survival of Aboriginal Australians through the harshest time in human history: community strength

Download (2.62 MB)
Version 2 2024-06-13, 14:14
Version 1 2020-10-21, 15:54
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-13, 14:14 authored by James A Charles, Lewis O'Brien
Abstract Introduction: Aboriginal People have inhabited the Australian continent since the beginning of time, but archaeologists and anthropologist’s state there is evidence for approx. 51,000 to 71,000 years of continual habitation. During this time, the Australian continent has experienced many environmental and climatic changes i.e. fluctuating temperatures, ice ages, fluctuating CO2 levels, extremely high dust levels, high ice volume, high winds, large scale bush fires, glacial movement, low rain fall, extreme arid conditions, limited plant growth, evaporation of fresh water lakes, and dramatic sea level fluctuations, which have contributed to mass animal extinction.Method: The skeletal remains of Aboriginal Australians were examined for evidence of bone spurring at the calcaneus, which may be indicative of fast running which would assist survival. The skull and mandible bones were examined for signs evolutional traits related to survival. Aboriginal culture, knowledge of medical treatment and traditional medicines were also investigated. Discussion: Oral story telling of factual events, past down unchanged for millennia contributed to survival. Aboriginal Australians had to seek refuge, and abandon 80% of the continent. Physical ability and athleticism was paramount to survival. There is evidence of cannibalism by many Aboriginal Australian tribes contributing to survival. The Kaurna People exhibited evolutionary facial features that would have assisted survival. Kaurna People had excellent knowledge of medicine and the capacity to heal their community members.Conclusion: The Australian continent has experienced many environmental and climatic changes over the millennia. Navigating these extremely harsh, rapidly changing conditions is an incredible story of survival of Aboriginal Australians. The findings of this investigation suggest that Aboriginal Australians survival methods were complex and multi-faceted. Although this paper could not examine every survival method, perhaps Aboriginal Peoples knowledge of flora and fauna, for nourishment and medicine, was paramount to their survival.



International journal of Indigenous health






Victoria, B.C.

Open access

  • Yes





Indigenous content

This research output may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. We apologise for any distress that may occur.



Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal




Aboriginal Health Research Networks Secretariat