Storytelling in Aboriginal Culture

In Aboriginal Australian society storytelling makes up a large part of everyday life. Storytelling is not only about entertaining people but is also vital in educating children about life.

Storytelling is used in a variety of ways. It is used to teach children how they should behave and why, and to pass on knowledge about everyday life such as how and when to find certain foods. Stories are also used to explain peoples’ spirituality, heritage and the laws. Dreaming stories pass on information to young people about creation, how the land was formed and populated, creation of plants, animals and humans, information about ancestral beings and places, the boundaries of peoples’ tribal lands, how ancestors came to Australia, how people migrated across the country and arrived in a particular part of the country.

The elders use every opportunity to educate the children about the way of life of their people. Stories are told while walking down to the waterhole or grinding up seeds to make damper (bread) or sitting around the campfire at night. As children grew older more information is passed on about their culture. Once a person becomes an adult they are responsible for passing on the information they had learned to the younger people.

Storytelling ensures that Aboriginal heritage is passed on to the younger people. This is how Dreaming stories have been passed down for thousands of years and continue to be passed on today.

Storytelling today

Today storytelling in Aboriginal Australia is still a very important way of passing on information to people. For thousands of years information has been passed on through stories and songs. Today you can also see and hear it in many types of music, plays, poetry, books, artwork, on television and on the Web and you can now read in books the traditional stories that were once only spoken.

These stories keep alive the traditions and heritage of Aboriginal Australia not only within Aboriginal communities but also within the wider community. This helps to increase understanding and awareness between people.

This information is provided thanks to the Australian Museum.

Jessie Peterson, Barkly Arts
Jessie Peterson, Barkly Arts
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