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Indigenous Australian Families

For many thousands of years before white settlement, virtually all aspects of life for the indigenous Australians—including relationships—were regulated by a complex kinship system in which children were the responsibility of the entire system rather than only the biological parents.

This complex kinship system lost prominence in Australia during the first forty years of white settlement, when the size of the indigenous population declined rapidly ( Jackson 1988). Today, indigenous Australians represent about 2 percent of the total population. The kinship system continues in varying degrees—along with a strong social identity (Bourke 1993; Kolar and Soriano 2000). Thus, indigenous Australians may define family very broadly, for example, as "various arrangements people make to ensure that the young are nurtured and people looked after" (O'Donoghue 1993).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsAustralia - Indigenous Australian Families, White Settlement, Family Trends: A Long-term Perspective, Family Diversity