Contact between new settlers, under imperial British rule, and Australia's indigenous people, led to the decimation of many Aboriginal groups due to disease, dispossession and in tens of thousands of cases, outright murder.
As populations declined and were fragmented, many unique linguistic and cultural traditions as well as valuable knowledge about the land and its fauna and flora were lost forever.
Clashes with colonists When Europeans first began to colonise Australia, towards the end of the 18th century AD, they found cultures and environments which, in hindsight, were of incalculable value.
Much of this ancient legacy has been destroyed forever in the subsequent two centuries.
Many of these helped deepen the plight of Aboriginal people and culture.
As recently as the 1950's, as many as one tenth of Aboriginal babies were removed from their natural parents and taken into foster care by non-Aboriginal families, in the belief this was to everyone's benefit.
In some places and on some occasions, settlers behaved in a quite civilised way. In between were a range of assimilationist and patronising policies.Over two centuries, the continent was progressively stolen from Aboriginal people.Settlers moved in and appropriated the overwhelming majority of Australia - either for private use or in the name of the British Crown.A range of serious social problems confront the leadership of Aboriginal Australia.Yet there has also been major progress in recent times, as Australia's first peoples develop their own national and regional institutions - and political strength - to meet the challenges of the modern era.To the traditional Aborigine they are all sacred: environment is the essence of Australian Aboriginal godliness.