Names a Part of Our Identity; Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, First Peoples and First Australians. What Is the Right Term?

Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia), October 17, 2018 | Go to article overview

Names a Part of Our Identity; Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, First Peoples and First Australians. What Is the Right Term?


Byline: Janelle Brown

WHAT'S in a name? Quite a lot really -- as it is a significant part of our identity, whether it be our individual identity or our collective identity.

Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, First Peoples and First Australians. Are you confused about the terminology in relation to the people who were in Australia first? If so, you're not alone.

You have probably heard all the above terms, as well as others not listed. But what is the correct term to use? It can get a little tricky, even for Aboriginal people.

I remember once addressing a group of elders and using the term Indigenous only to be quite firmly advised that "we don't refer to ourselves as Indigenous". I quickly used another term which was more acceptable to the group.

Aboriginal is the most common term to describe the people who were in Australia first. You will note throughout this article that it is the term I personally tend to use.

Before we delve further into various terminology, I think it's wise to examine the meaning of the two main terms Aboriginal and Indigenous. The Oxford dictionary defines "aboriginal" as an adjective meaning "inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists" while "indigenous" means "originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native".

The issue that many Aboriginal people have with the term "indigenous" is that based on the above definition it can be interpreted to mean that any person born in Australia is indigenous (to Australia). Therefore, based on this definition the word indigenous doesn't correctly identify or describe the descendants of the original Australians.

There are also many people who have issues with the word Aboriginal for various reasons. …

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