Australia Arts and Culture

Aboriginal Society

Australia's Aboriginal people were tribal, living in extended family groups or clans, with clan members descending from a common ancestral being. Tradition, rituals and laws linked the people of each clan to the land they occupied and each clan had various sites of spiritual significance, places to which their spirits would return when they died. Clan members came together to perform rituals to honor their ancestral spirits and the creators of the Dreaming. These beliefs were the basis of the Aboriginal peoples' ties to the land they lived on.

Australia Balladsnew!

The Cockney convicts, with their overwhelming oratorical abilities and colorful expressions, soon gained power over their duller cousins. Illiterate or poorly-educated, they brought to Australia their own street literature, the ballad. Even to the jangling of their own prison chains, the Cockneys sometimes turned the sound into music and began singing and dancing.

Aboriginal Beliefs and Ceremonies

Early European settlers and explorers usually dismissed the entire Aboriginal population as 'savages' and 'barbarians', and it was some time before the Aboriginal peoples' deep, spiritual bond with the land, and their relationship to it, was understood by White Australians.

European Art in Australia

In the 1880s a group of young-artists developed the first distinctively Australian style of watercolor painting. Working from a permanent bush camp in Melbourne's (then) outer suburb of Box Hill, the painters captured the unique qualities of Australian life and the bush.


Aboriginal Song & Narrative. Aboriginal oral traditions are loosely and misleadingly described as 'myths and legends'. Their single uniting factor is the Dreamtime, when the totemic ancestors formed the landscape, fashioned the laws and created the people who would inherit the land.

Modern Literature

Modern Aboriginal writers have fused the English language with aspects of their traditional culture. The result is often carefully fashioned to expose the injustices they have been subjected to, especially as urban dwellers. The first Aboriginal writer to be published was David Unaipon in 1929 (Native Legends).


The Australian film industry began as early as 1896, a year after the Lumiere brothers opened the world's first cinema in Paris. Maurice Sestier, one of the Lumieres' photographers, came to Australia and made the first films in the streets of Sydney and at Flemington Racecourse during the Melbourne Cup.


Australia's participation in the flurry of popular music since the 1950s has been a frustrating mix of good, indifferent, lousy, parochial and excellent. However, even the offerings of the most popular acts have done nothing to remove the cultural cringe: the highest praise remains 'it's good enough to have come from the UK/USA'. And it's true that little of the popular music created here has been noticeably different from that overseas.


Australia's first European settlers arrived in the country with memories of Georgian grandeur, but the lack of materials and tools meant that most of the early houses were almost caricatures of the real thing. One of the first concessions to the climate, and one which was to become a feature of Australian houses, was the addition of a wide verandah which kept the inner rooms of the house dark and cool.