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The First Australians It is widely believed that the Aborigine people migrated from some unknown point in Asia to Australia between 60000 and 50000 years ago and quickly covered the entire continent This is a remarkable feat when you consider the variety and extremes of the Australian environment Traditionally the Aborigines were hunters and gathers moving with the seasons taking with them only those possessions that were necessary for the hunting and preparation of food In areas of plentiful food sources they confined their movements to a relatively small area In the arid and semi-arid regions they were forced to travel over vast tracts of land to obtain food and water Aboriginal society was a complex network of intricate kinship relationships All members of the family unit had their own role and responsibilities No formal government or authority existed but social control was maintained by a sophisticated system of beliefs called the Dreaming These beliefs found expression in song art and dance A rich oral tradition existed in which stories of the Dreamtime the time of creation or recent history were passed down the generations Early Explorations European exploration of Australia began in 1606 when the Spanish navigator Luis Vaez de Torres sailed through the Torres Strait now named after him which separates Australia and Papua New Guinea Before that seagoing Macassan traders originating from what is now Indonesia would visit the north of Australia to trade with the Aborigines and harvest sea cucumber A couple of months after the Vaez de Torres voyage Dutch explorers began to chart the new continent First was Willem Janszoon who sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria and then 17 years later Jan Carstensz mapped and named the main features of the western coast By that time other Dutch navigators had reached parts of the northern and western coasts of Australia Most importantly Dirck Hartog examined the west coast near what is now known as Shark Bay and
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