For thousands of years, the original inhabitants of Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occupied the lands with very different boundaries than today, centred on intimate cultural relationships with the land and sea.
“It’s my fathers land, my grandfather’s land, my grandmothers land. And I’m related to it, which also give me my identity.” Father Dave Passi, Plaintiff in Mabo Case
The map is an attempt to represent all the language, tribal or nation groups of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups were included on the map based on the published resources available between 1988 and 1994 which determine the cultural, language and trade boundaries and relationships between groups. Regions were determined using the watershed basis as a template.
The map was developed along with the Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia as part of a research project. The Encyclopedia is available in libraries and contains more detailed information about the groups represented on the map.
"What was before Lord Vestey born and I born? It was blackfella country." Vincent Lingiari (Wattie Creek 1966)
Limitations of the map
The AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia was produced for a general reading audience. The map is not definitive and is not the only information available which maps language and social groups. See alsoAUSTLANG.
The information on which the map is based is contested and may not be agreed to by some traditional custodians. The borders between groups are purposefully represented as slightly blurred. They do not claim to be exact.
The map was produced before native title legislation and is not suitable for use in native title or other land claims.