Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre
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You call it Desert – We used to live there


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Not so long ago people were living throughout the Great Sandy Desert. They usually travelled in small family bands, meeting up with other bands from time to time for companionship, to discuss and settle matters of importance, to exchange news and to hold ceremonies. They lived by hunting and gathering, and travelled with the seasons and according to whatever food and water were available. They belonged to several different language groups who shared a similar way of life and whose members sometimes intermarried. Each clan had its own territory and waterholes, around which its members moved in the course of the year, occasionally playing visits into neighbours’ territory as relations and guests.

Soon after the arrival of European settlers, or karitya, in Australia the lives of the earlier inhabitants changed radically. The people who had lived in the regions now taken over by the newcomers were quickly displaced, while those who lived in. the interior were gradually drawn towards the new settlements, attracted by the stories they heard from travelling relations intrigued by the European goods and livestock the visitors had brought with them. In time the desert became almost empty of people and the few who remained were finally compelled to join those who had gone before them.