Adapting to new Country

As well as culture changing to accommodate a new way of life, the country shaped the way of life that was possible, both for those new to the area, and those whose country was being rapidly altered. These pages look at the effects of the meeting of the two cultures in Bundjalung country.

While not determining the nature of Aboriginal lifestyle the environment of the Region, by the possibilities it offered and limitations it imposed, is sure to have had a very great influence on certain aspects of that lifestyle.

If we consider the environment of the coast we find long stretches of sandy shore broken by relatively small rocky headlands and by some very large estuarine environments. While the long, thin, pipi middens found in the dune systems show that people used the shellfish resources of the sandy beaches, it is on the margins of the estuaries, characterised archaeologically by large and often mounded middens and a high density of other sites, that the coastal Aboriginal groups appear to have focused.

There are numerous other ways in which the physical environment has been influential. Rock shelters were occupied generally in the presence of sandstone cliffs and ridges or granite tors, elsewhere open occupation sites are more spread. The availability of suitable stone is likely to have had a major influence on the distribution of quarries.

Of the particular environments of the Region the rainforests were one offering an enormous diversity of foods (over 63 edible mammals and 103 edible plants) and raw material (Byrne 1987). One only has to look at artefacts from the Region which have ended up in museum collections - palm-leaf water buckets, lines and nets of stinging tree bark, wooden clapping sticks of rainforest species, and necklets of lawyer vine segments (McBryde 1978) to appreciate the distinctiveness which this environment lent to the cultures of the North Coast.

Relations between the different people

from Reference 27

The relationship between two such mutually exclusive groups as the Aboriginal and European on the North Coast of New South Wales may be considered from two different angles. First, as aspects of the overall social structure of the society as a whole, and second, as mechanisms making for the continued existence of the groups concerned. See Race Relations

The European group has some almost universally accepted stereotypes of the Aboriginal group. These provide the rationale for its continued exclusion from the social life of the European community. It has been shown that only some of these stereotypes are correct, and that Aboriginal communities are in a particularly vulnerable position with regard to scandal because the private lives of their members are the specific concern of certain members of the European group. In the realm of sexual behaviour, around which the other stereotypes cluster, the difference lies not so much in the behaviour itself as in the public nature of this behaviour. Aborigines neither value privacy so highly nor have they the same opportunities for maintaining it as have European Australians. See     Effect of Stereotypes

The Aboriginal sub-group has similar stereotypes of the Europeans, and, perhaps every bit as significant, its members tend to accept many of the stereotypes about themselves which are held by the Europeans. It has a similar kind of rationale for the exclusion of the white group, and there is a tendency for the inferior social status assigned to Aborigines to be accepted. In none of these communities is insistence on equality with whites or open hostility to the white group valued behaviour. This suggests that the structural relations between the two groups are relatively stable. On the other hand, the ambivalence of both the attitudes of Europeans to Aborigines and of Aborigines to their own and the European way of life suggests a degree of fluidity. See Aboriginal Response to Rejection

Europeans are unwilling to accept Aborigines as social equals, and yet they are indignant at the undemocratic nature of discrimination. The Aborigines vacillate between resentment at the inferior social status assigned to them with a concomitant rejection of Aboriginal culture and an acceptance of this status and a reaffirmation of Aboriginal values. See Understanding cultural traditions

The Pentecostal cult focuses the social withdrawal of the Aboriginal group. In it the Aborigine finds a value system different from that of the white community and one in terms of which he can feel worthy. Pentecostalism is the positive result of segregation; for the Aborigines it functions as a patterned social expression of the separateness of the two groups. Aboriginal Rejection of European

The complexity of the problem of race relations in this area will be clear from the foregoing. The white group's rejection of the Aboriginal group is paralleled and to a great extent caused by the Aborigines' withdrawal from the society at large. The disapproval of many aspects of Aboriginal culture by Europeans makes for greater solidarity within the Aboriginal group, thus favouring the continuance of these very culture elements. It is convenient to think of the persistence of Aboriginal communities as a reaction to European discrimination, but this approach is one-sided. The constant interaction of two culturally and historically dissimilar groups tends to prevent their becoming welded into one. What makes for the solidarity within these groups also makes for the segmentation, and in this case perhaps the stratification of the society at large

Also there are many records of life and culture practised in the area, some of which are copied here:

Baryulgil Community

Knowledge of Flora and Fauna

Recent Consultation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups