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The World of the First Australians

Aboriginal Traditional Life: Past and Present

The World of the First Australians by Ronald Berndt
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First published in 1964 and this fifth edition published in 1988, The World of the First Australians is a classic in the field of Australian Aboriginal Studies. As well as being a comprehensive reference book, covering a wide range of the many traditional societies and cultures that have existed on the Australian continent, it draws together the threads of Aboriginal belief and practice in general terms.

This book brings together some of the material from over 40 years of the authors’ anthropological research and fieldwork among Aborigines in many parts of Australia, supplemented with comprehensive statements from other sources. It concentrates on the past and present traditional life of Aboriginal Australians, and the tremendous changes that have overtaken them. The authors cover aspects such as social organisation, economic adaptation, relationship to land an dits resources, growing up and getting married, religious belief, myth and ritual, forms of sorcery and magic, law and order, oral literature and visual art.

Aboriginal Studies Press; November 1991
672 pages; ISBN 9780855755799
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Title: The World of the First Australians
Author: Ronald Berndt; Catherine Berndt


Foreword to the 1988 Edition vii

Foreword to the 1985 Edition xi

1. The Aborigines in Time and Space 1

2. Social Organization and Structure 25

3. Social Organization and Structure (continued) 46

4. The Basis of Economic Life 107

5. The Life Cycle: Growing Up 150

6. The Life Cycle: Marriage to Old Age 188

7. Religious Belief and Practice: Totemism and Mythology 227

8. Religious Belief and Practice: Ritual 259

9. Magic and Sorcery 304

10. Law and Order 336

11. Art and Aesthetic Expression 367

12. Art and Aesthetic Expression (continued) 409

13. Death and the Afterlife 453

14. Paths to the Present 490

15. An Overview: The Past and Present 515

16. Australian Aboriginal Studies 533

Additional Notes on the Main Chapters 550

Bibliography 556

Index of Subjects 601

Index of Names 605