Acknowledgement Of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation, Wings Sailing Charters Whitsunday acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we operate.

We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

First Nations Facts:

  • Archaeological research shows that Australia has been home to First Nations Peoples for at least 65 000 years
  • There were over 500 different clan groups or ‘nations’ around the continent, many with distinctive cultures, beliefs and languages
  • At least 250 languages, many with numerous dialects, were in use on the continent and islands prior to European colonisation
  • A new genomic study has revealed that Aboriginal Australians are the oldest known civilization on Earth

Local History

The Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac Regions have the Yuwibara, Koinmerburra, Barada Barna, Wiri, Ngaro, Gia and Juru people.

Locally, as seen in the map, the Ngaro People inhabited the Whitsunday Islands and coastal bays and the Gia People inhabited the area around Proserpine.

Ngaro Facts:

  • Archaeological research shows that the Whitsundays have been inhabited by the Ngaro for at least 9000 years
  • Local descendants and archaeologists confirm that the area was inhabited for much longer, but the ocean has changed the landscape putting many ancient cultural sites underwater
  • The Ngaro, known as ‘canoe people’, were a seafaring community living on both the mainland and islands
  • Ngaro territory is said to amount to almost 520 square kilometres
  • The canoes (winta) were capable of journeys on the open sea and were made from three pieces of sturdy ironbark and a fibrous root was used to sew the pieces together
  • Evidence of habitation includes stone axes and cutting tools found in a stone quarry on South Molle Island, numerous fish traps throughout the Whitsunday Islands, and rock art discovered at Nara Inlet on Hook Island
  • At Nara Inlet on Hook Island, middens (large piles of discarded shells and bones) have enabled archaeologists to determine that people began using the caves there about 2 500 years ago

The term Aboriginal is often used to describe Australia’s Indigenous Peoples. It is a collective name that does not demonstrate to full advantage the diversity of tribes, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs that constitute Australia’s Indigenous peoples and their societies.

The preferred term, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples recognises that Australia’s Indigenous peoples comprise two distinct groups - Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There are some similarities but also differences between the cultures, languages and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Together, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the first inhabitants of this vast continent.

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the longest continuous living cultures in the world. Their societies are not homogenous, they comprise many tribes, clans and families, with a diverse array of languages, cultures and dialects. Prior to European settlement of Australia it is estimated that there were over 250 known Indigenous languages.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have inhabited almost every geographical region, ranging from deserts to rainforests; coastal areas to open plains and mountain country; temperate regions to the tropics. Their histories are as diverse as their cultures. The cultural identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is determined by a range of factors including, language, kinship and community, history, connections to place, tradition and spirituality.

1.     Of the more than 250 languages spoken prior to colonisation, less than 50 are spoken fluently and regularly today.
2.     50,000 speakers (60%) of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Island languages reside in the Northern Territory.
3.    55% of Australian Indigenous peoples in remote areas speak their traditional languages.
4.    Older Australian Indigenous peoples are more likely to speak a traditional language.
5.    Many Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory speak more than one language including their traditional language, Kriol/Creole, and English – for many, English may be their third or fourth language.
6. Kriol/Creole in the Australian context, is a fusion of a traditional Indigenous language and English.

The Dreaming as the basis of all aspects of life in traditional Aboriginal societies

The following section on The Dreaming focuses on Aboriginal philosophy and culture specifically. Torres Strait Islander philosophies and other aspects of Torres Strait Islander culture and history will be discussed further in Component 9 of this course.

The Dreaming varies from group to group, and is a complex network of knowledge, faith and practices that derive from stories of creation, and which dominate all spiritual and physical aspects of Aboriginal life. The Dreaming is often used to describe the time when the earth, humans and animals were created.

During the Dreaming, ancestral spirits came to earth and created the landforms, animals and plants. These creation stories tell how the ancestral spirits moved through the land creating rivers, lakes and mountains, the stories tell us how people came to Australia and the links between the groups throughout Australia, how people learnt languages and dance, and how they came to know about fire. During the Dreaming or Creation period the Lore was given which has been handed down for generations through stories, music and dance.

The diagram illustrates the relationship between the Ancestor Beings and all other aspects of the physical spiritual and social spheres of existence.

A circular chart depicting aspects of The Dreaming such as land, art, language, mythology, people, relationships, technology, animals, plants, totemic sites, spirit beings,celestial bodies and sacred objects.


There are no English words to appropriately describe Aboriginal spirituality. The term ‘Dreaming’ has been associated with Aboriginal spirituality but does not adequately reflect its complexity or the fact that the ‘Dreaming’ permeates every aspect of Aboriginal cultures and societies.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the concept of ‘spirituality’ refers to a more holistic view of life – in particular an individual’s link with the land, sea and air. Consequently, this relationship confirms one’s identity and place as an Australian Indigenous person.

Aboriginal lore/law however holds that the Aboriginal people came from the land, that it is their mother. Some coastal groups have oral traditions that indicate their ancestors arrived to the area by sea in the time of Creation.

At the time of Creation during the Dreaming, spirit ancestors took a variety of forms and identities and moved across the earth, at times re-entering the earth or the water or moving into the sky. Some ancestor beings appeared in human form, others identified as being both human and animal or human and bird while others were understood as being both human and plant. In Creation stories the ancestor beings are often referred to as terms like, “kangaroo-man, shark-man, native fig-man, bowerbird -woman, crow-woman or snake-man”. This does not mean they were half human half animal etc. this means that they were equally in essence human and animal or plant.

When the ancestor beings emerged and travelled they performed the same activities experienced in traditional Aboriginal life or by the species they represent. They gathered food; ate, made weapons, fought, married, sang and performed ceremonies, and cheated and tricked others. At times, they appeared to act as humans and at other times they appeared to act as the animals or plants they embodied.

As they travelled and engaged in various activities they formed the earth, the rocks, the waterholes and the other phenomena of the environment so that the world as now known was shaped by their actions. Their activities provide the model for how life is to be lived.

In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society people do not own the land, but rather it is part of them, and part of their duty is to respect and take care of it. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people refer to their land as the ‘Country’.

Credit: Centre for Cultural Competence Australia>