Australian Aboriginal Beliefs and Spiritualities
The Dreaming


Your coming assessment will consist of the following:
Short answer questions
Stimulus based questions

Guys, make sure you use your own notes along with these ones. You cannot expect to ace this assessment if you only use these notes. So, good luck and enjoy! See you all at school.


Students learn about
The nature of the Dreaming

Students learn to
Outline the nature of the Dreaming
in relation to the following:

Origins of the Universe

  • Different Aboriginal groups have varying creation stories with some general, common features
  • Ancestors emerged from land features (e.g. rock formations) which are considered Sacred sites
  • These supernatural beings created the natural world
  • Each group has an ancestor and a natural species or totem (e.g. emu)

Sacred Sites

  • May be land, rock formations, parts of rivers or seas that are linked to Dreaming stories
  • Also may be burial grounds, ceremonial meeting places and other significant places such as birthing caves
  • Some sites are women's Sacred sites, some are men's, and some are for the entire group

Stories of the Dreaming

  • The Dreaming is not regarded as myth by Aboriginal people. It is seen as a reality which consists of the past, present and future

Symbolism and Art

  • Art was connected to the artist's country
  • Different areas produced different forms of art
  • Many symbols used in Aboriginal art
  • Many forms, including body art, painting, carved trees, rock art, bark painting and funerary poles
  • Art was used in the teaching of others - knowledge of food types, sites, water, etc
  • They "painted their Dreaming


Students learn about
The nature of the Dreaming

Students learn to
Discuss the diversity of the Dreaming for Aboriginal peoples

Diversity of the Dreaming

  • There are about 900 Aboriginal nations within Australia and, so, Dreaming stories differ greatly.
  • Each of these nations had its own dialect by which they communicated. This means that the language was different amongst the different groups of Aboriginal people.
  • As a result, there are differences in the Dreaming accounts.
  • Some groups that are close to eachother geographically shared many common elements of their Dreaming stories.

Background information

  • Aboriginal spirituality is based on a variety of beliefs.
  • All clans believed in an ancestral creative spirit who created all aspects of the world through his/her travels
  • Each area has a particular plant/animal which is a totem for that group of Aboriginal people; the spirit of the ancestor is heavily associated with the totem. Because of this, the people have a kinship with that spirit and are the spiritual 'owners' of that area of land.
  • The people are responsible for that area of land and, along with their kinship with the ancestral spirit, their identity is formed.

Rituals and Ceremonies

  • Each group has its own particular Dreaming.
  • The Dreamings are manifested in many ways, but especially through special ritual actions.
  • The participants in a ceremony are dealing directly with their ancestor being; they become their totem spirit.
  • The ground becomes completely filled with the lifeforce of the Dreaming.
  • The Dreaming is re-created in the present time and space for as long as the ceremony lasts.

Importance and Functions of Ceremony

  • The religious rituals serve a variety of purposes.
  • They honour the totem ancestors
  • They introduce the ancestors and their totems to newly initiated members, to ensure there is enough food, etc.
  • The MAIN purpose of ceremonies is to participate in the original acts of the creative spirits, bringing the Dreaming into the "here and now".


  • Initiation brings young people into the adult community.
  • Young men and women participated in separate ceremonies.
    • The initiated person learns sacred stories and traditions of the group
    • The initiated person is taught the cultural values of the group
  • Puberty Initiation FOR BOYS:
    1. The ground is prepared by decorating it with sacred symbols of the totem. The men remain in this space.
    2. The boys are taken from their mothers
    3. They are then taken to an isolated camp where they are taught the spiritual traditions of the group
    4. A physical procedure is performed to mark the boy as an adult. This could include scaring, circumcision, the extraction of a tooth or other forms of physical markings.
  • Throughout these ceremonies, the boys are expected to act certain ways and follow specific ritual rules.
  • Every thing that happens in these rituals has meaning.


Students learn about
The nature of the Dreaming

Students learn to
Recognise the importance of the Dreaming for the life of Aboriginal peoples

Importance of the Dreaming for the lives of Aboriginal peoples

  • Religion is a means for people to find answers to life's big questions.
  • With Aboriginal spirituality, the natural and the supernatural are extremely closely linked
  • Their spirituality is lived in their day to day lives and their supernatural deities are active in their activities
    • Totems are respected but they are not worshipped.
    • Ceremony places the people in direct contact with their ancestor spirit
  • LIFE
    • Aboriginal spirituality is celebrated through devotional practices (signs, symbols, etc)
    • Life was initiated in the Dreaming and so life is very much connected with eternity
    • Life is taken as Sacred; it is a miracle.
    • Death is seen as a necessary part of life.
    • "Whatever is born must kill to eat and grow, and then it dies and is reborn"
    • All being participate in this life cycle
    • Rituals for the dead ensure the departed spirit returns to the spirit world
    • Aboriginal Law is based on the belief that everything that exists is connected and part of a living system
    • For all of life to be preserved, relationsihps between all living things must be preserved
    • None are superior or inferior
    • Aboriginal people live WITH the land based on this understanding. They do not exploit the land.


Students learn about
The inextricable connection of the Dreaming, the land and identity

Students learn to
Investigate the inextricable connection of the Dreaming, the land and identity

Land and Dreaming

  • For Aboriginals, the LAND is extremely important
  • It is the physical link to the invisible, eternal, spiritual world
  • The Dreaming sets the moral and social bonds and also the unbreakable link between humans, ancestral beings and the spiritual world
  • The land is a sacred place; The Dreaming occurs on the land
  • The land has a story to tell. Land features are the result of the Dreaming
  • Aboriginal people follow "songlines", or the paths of their Ancestors. Because of this, they know the land well and it is sacred to them


  • People must cooperate with the natural cycle of life so that the land will continue its own life cycle
  • Aboriginal people must care for the land in order to live off it.


  • Aboriginal speaks of the land as part of their identity: "I am the Land".
  • They are a part of the living environment, not superior to it.
  • A formal kinship exists between Aboriginal people and their area of land, including non-human inhabitants. This is because they all came from the same ancestral spirit
  • The human body is made up of the physical body and some spiritual elements
  • Aboriginal Law states that people must show each other respect because they are all bonded in body, soul and spirit
  • All physical action must take into consideration the spiritual effects.
  • The people must conform to the spiritual patterns of their clan
  • For Aboriginals, all aspects of life are celebrated, the bad with the good.