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Social Organisation Within Language Groups

Aboriginal Social Structure within Language Groups

The social organisation within a language group was very complex.

Many people have tried to document these clan and family relationships in many ways. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission describes these relationships in the following way. The language groups were composed of several clans. Each clan, through religious law was responsible for a certain area of land. It was through clan membership that individuals gained their special links with the land. All the people in a clan belonged to the same descent groups (either patrilineal or matrilineal). Social organisation within Aboriginal language groups is complexMembers of the same clan could not marry one another, so a person's mother and father would have come from different clans. In areas where clan membership was based on patrilineal descent groups, children belonged to the same clan as the mother. Clans were associated with a particular species of animal which was a dreaming ancestor.The people who came together to live or hunt or gather food did not necessarily belong to the same clan. These groups, often referred to as bands or communities, usually consisted of one or more families. They were the basic economic unit of Aboriginal society.

Source: Indigenous Australia Kit, Commonwealth of Australia. Aboriginal Australia, Aboriginal people of New South Wales, page 3, Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Canberra, 1992.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often refer to these relationships as kin relationships. One who is kin could be related by blood or family relation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander kin relationships are still very strong today. The social organisation, structures and relationships in Aboriginal language groups are different to those in Torres Strait Islander groups.

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