Photographer: Benjamin Warlngundu Ellis

'Aboriginal' and 'Torres Strait Islander' refers to different groups of Peoples. Aboriginal refers to the First Peoples of mainland Australia and Tasmania. Torres Strait Islander refers to the original peoples of the 274 islands located north of Australia, in the Torres Strait. Australia is made up of many different and distinct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, each with their own culture, language, beliefs and practices. Regardless of where Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people live, their identify remains connected to their cultural and ancestral homelands.

Caring for Country: Caring for country centres on the relationships between First Nations Peoples and their country, which includes their lands, waters, plants, animals, heritage, culture, ancestors, laws, religions and more. The term relates to the activities undertaken that goes towards maintaining this beneficial relationship.

Country: Term often used by First Nations Peoples to describe the lands, waters and skies to which they are connected. The term contains complex ideas about law, place, custom, language, spiritual belief, cultural practice, material sustenance, family and identity.

Cultural Heritage: The knowledge and lore, practices and people, objects and places that are valued, culturally meaningful and connected to identity and Country.
Cultural Heritage is based on inherited traditions, belief systems, knowledge, lore, language, art, artifacts, oral traditions, stories, rituals and other valued expressions of a group of people. It embodies the relationship to Country. It is a living, contemporary concept as well as one that relates to the past.

Cultural Protocol: The accepted or established code of procedure or behaviour in any group, organisation, or situation to ensure social cohesion and understanding.

Dreaming: Dreamtime or Dreaming for First Nations Peoples represents the time when the Ancestral Spirits progressed over the land and created life and important physical geographic formations and sites.

Aboriginal philosophy is known as the Dreaming and is based on the inter-relation of all people and all things. The past of the Spirit Ancestors which live on in the legends are handed down through stories, art, ceremony and songs.

The Dreaming explains the origin of the universe and workings of nature and humanity. It shapes and structures life through the regulation and understanding of family life, the relations between the sexes and obligations to people, land and spirits.

First Nations: Although this is a commonly used and generic term used in Australia, there is a growing preference for ‘First Nations Peoples’ as a more encompassing term to acknowledge the diversity of Australia’s First Peoples. ‘First Nations’ is also the preferred term to refer to the Indigenous peoples of Canada. (

Free Prior and Informed consent (FPIC): FPIC and the right to self-determination is a set of “collective” rights. This means that it is the community of Indigenous peoples (as opposed to individuals) who give the consent. Indigenous peoples should be treated as decision-makers, not stakeholders.

The elements of FPIC are:

    • Free: consent is given voluntarily and absent of coercion, intimidation or manipulation. The process is self-directed by the community from whom consent is being sought unencumbered by coercion, expectations or timelines that are externally imposed.
    • Prior: consent is sought sufficiently in advance of any authorisation or commencement of activities.
    • Informed: engagement and type of information that should be provided prior to seeking consent and also as part of the ongoing process. Information should be accessible, clear, consistent, accurate, constant, and transparent and delivered in appropriate language and culturally appropriate format.
    • Consent: refers to the collective decision made by the rights-holders and reached through the customary decision-making processes of the communities. Consent includes the right to say “No” or “Yes, with conditions”. Consent should be renegotiated if the conditions of the agreement change and can be withdrawn.
FPIC is derived from the right to self-determination, which is a cornerstone principle of Indigenous people’s rights.

Traditional Owners: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with rights and interests over their country.

Heritage conservation: The protection, rehabilitation, and celebration of historic places. This can include physical structures, such as buildings and monuments, as well as intangible heritage, such as knowledge, language, and traditions.

ICP or Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property: First Nations Peoples rights to their cultural heritage. ICIP rights come from Article 31 of the UNDRIP. ICIP incorporates all types of tangible and intangible heritage, including:

a) Traditional knowledge (TK) (including scientific, agricultural, technical, and ecological knowledge, ritual knowledge, caring for Country practices, etc.),
b) Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) (including stories, artworks, designs and symbols, literature, etc,),
c) Literary, performing and artistic works,
d) Performances (ceremonies, dance, and song),
e) Languages,
f) Cultural objects (including, but not limited to arts, crafts, ceramics, jewellery, weapons, tools, visual arts, photographs, textiles, contemporary art practices),
g) Sites, places, cultural landscapes and waterscapes and the knowledge associated with them,
h) Ancestral remains (human remains, tissues and genetic material),
i) Cultural environment resources (including minerals and species),
j) Secret and sacred sites, material and information (including sacred/historically significant sites and burial grounds), and
k) Documentation of First Nations peoples’ heritage in all forms of media such as films, photographs, books, reports, and records taken by others, sound recordings and digital databases.

Indigenous Land Use Agreement: A voluntary agreement between native title parties and other people or bodies about the use and management of areas of land and/or waters, made between one or more native title groups and others (such as, for example, miners, pastoralists or governments)

Knowledge: The term knowledge is a living tradition that is part of active and ongoing practice. Knowledge is maintained, renewed revised and developed through the practice of Culture.

Lore (law): First Nations people and communities are governed by systems of lore (law) which provide rules of conduct, obligations, rights and responsibilities according to custom. This lore (law) has always existed from time immemorial and continues today. Some First Nations people use ‘Law’ to refer to cultural rules and protocols as equal to non-Indigenous laws. Others use ‘Lore’ to connect cultural rules to spirituality and Dreaming, drawing a distinction between First Nations lore and non-Indigenous laws.

Paintings: Paintings use wet pigments made from minerals which are applied by finger or with brushes made from chewed sticks or hair. Sometimes stencils are created by blowing the colour from the mouth over an outline.

Petroglyph and Pictographs (Rock Art): Petroglyphs are created by removing rock through pecking, hammering or abrading (scrape or wear away by friction or erosion) in order to leave a negative impression. Pictographs are made by applying pigments to the rock. Drawings use dry colours, such as charcoal, clay, chalk and ochre - which can be anything from pale yellow to dark reddish brown.

Australia is home to some of the oldest and most prolific collections of ‘rock art’ in the world. Researchers estimate there are more than 100,000 significant rock art sites across the country. For example, there are over a million documented petroglyphs in WA’s Murujuga National Park and many thousands in Kakadu.

Place Names:

  • Mparntwe (Alice Springs)⁠ — Arrernte Country
  • Tarndanya (Adelaide)⁠ — Kaurna Country
  • Meanjin/Magandjin (Brisbane)⁠ — Yuggera/Jagera and Turrbal Country
  • Gimuy (Cairns)⁠ — Yirriganydji and Yidinji Country
  • Canberra — Ngambri and Ngunnawal Country
  • Gulumoerrgin (Darwin)⁠ — Larrakia Country
  • nipaluna (Hobart)⁠ — nipaluna country
  • Naarm (Melbourne)⁠ — Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung Country
  • Boorloo (Perth)⁠ — Whadjuk Noongar Country
  • Warrane/Warrang (Sydney Cove) — Gadigal Country

Practicing Culture: Practice of Culture is a continuing process and is interconnected to every way of being, including language, family, history and relationships.

Prescribed Bodies Corporate: An Aboriginal corporation that is appointed by Native Title Holders to hold and manage native title on behalf of Native Title Holders.

Secret and/or Sacred Objects: Objects that are secret or sacred according to Aboriginal tradition and defined by their Traditional Owners.

Self Determination: Self-determination is a right that pertains to groups of people, not individuals. Self-determination is an ‘ongoing process of choice’ to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to meet their social, cultural and economic needs.

The right to self-determination is based on the simple acknowledgment that Indigenous peoples are Australia’s first people, as was recognised by law in the historic Mabo judgement.

The right to self-determination is contained in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and in article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Songlines: The term ‘Songlines’ relates to a knowledge system. Songlines can be visualised as corridors or pathways of knowledge that crisscross the continent laid down by creator beings over millennia. Songlines describe the features and directions of travel that were included in a song that had to be sung and memorised for the traveller to know the route to their destination. Certain Songlines were referred to as ‘Dreaming Pathways’ because of the tracks forged by Creator Spirits during the Dreaming. These special Songlines have specific ancestral stories attached to them. (

Traditional Custodians: The people who have a long-standing connection to a particular place or area. They are often the descendants of the original inhabitants of the land and have a responsibility to care for and protect the heritage of that place.