Any of the indigenous peoples of Australia. The first Australians are estimated to have reached the continent at least 50,000 years ago. At one time there may have been as many as 500 language-named, territorially anchored groups of indigenous Australians. They subsisted as hunters and gatherers. Groups (bands) were formed along the male line (patrilineal descent) and consisted of two or more families. Their lives were centred around a specific site settled by the group's ancestors. The men were custodians of the mythology, ritual, sites, and symbols evoked in the Dreaming. Australian Aborigines are believed to have numbered 300,000–1,000,000 when European colonization began in the late 18th century, but they were devastated by introduced diseases and by the bloody 19th-century policy of pacification by force. In the early 21st century they were estimated to number more than 400,000. Most aspects of their traditional culture have been severely modified. All Aboriginal peoples have had some contact with modern Australian society, and all are now Australian citizens. At the turn of the 21st century Aboriginal interest in cultural revival was strong.
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