Australian aboriginal people do not have any written language and as
such, they relied on signs, symbols and other forms of artwork to covey
message and pass on this knowledge to other generations. This was done
through symbols which are still an essential part of their long
artistic tradition. Most of these symbols encompassed a variation of
dots or lines with some telling complex stories while others having
As depicted in most paintings, artists working on this icon portray the
subjects from an aerial view and depicted as indentations on the
ground. All the tracks in this symbol symbolize events, ancestral
travels or current travels that have happened in the artists’
country. While there are numerous icons symbolizing every being that
inhabit the Central Desert, this particular one signifies a Budgerigar.
Aboriginals used this bird in guiding them to various edible foods
coming into season and followed it in their pursuit for food and water.
This symbol tells the story of a budgerigar. This bird is known by
aboriginals to fly around searching for food and upon spotting it; it
descends down eating the insects, worms and seeds before flying up
again looking to create a home. While the bird is flying around, it
spots an old tree but it has to look around and ascertain that
it’s the right place to make a nest. The tree
doesn’t impress the bird and it continues flying around
before finding a beautiful tree with green leaves and firm branches.
Upon checking, the bird then makes a home where it can lay its eggs.
The cycle goes on and once the tree gets old, the budgerigar then flies
away looking to make a new safer home for its babies.
Just like in the budgerigar symbol, this symbol is also depicted from
an aerial perspective and with indentations in the ground. This symbol
represents another bird known as the Emu. This is a large bird which
the aboriginals used for bush medicine as well as a source of food.
Aboriginal males hunted this bird and used its feathers for decorations
during sacred and public ceremonies.
This icon tells a story about the emu. Aboriginals knew the bird to
walk for long miles eating berries, seeds and grass.
When the bird felt thirsty, he’d walk slowly just like
he’s in danger until he reaches the water hole where he
checks around to make sure there’s no one before drinking the
water. These birds are known to be hard to catch and aboriginals used
poison leaves to capture them. They’d go to these water holes
and poison the water before lurking around waiting for the birds.
This symbol depicts a large lizard found in Australia known as the
goanna. This lizard was used by the aboriginals as a source of staple
food as well as for medicilnal purporses. This symbol represents how a
goanna drags its tail along in the sand forming footprints on either
side. Goannas are known to leave distinctive tracks and this aided the
aboriginal people in hunting for it. This lizard and its eggs are a
primary source of food for the aboriginal people. Lastly, there are
numerous ways in how this symbol is represented based on the region of
This icon appears in most aboriginal paintings and portrays how people
are involved in ceremonies, how they camp, hunt, travel and gather.
This symbol is usually depicted by a series of concentric circles
occupied by aboriginal people. These paintings are often associated
with fertility and they depict a fertile region of a country. Each mark
on this symbol signifies something:
The ovals on the sides represent the windbreaks, the three dashes
signify fires, the top oval mark at the centre represents an aboriginal
man, the middle oval mark signifies a baby and the bottom oval mark
symbolizes a woman.
This symbol represents the spinifex
grass which is long and yellow and was useful to the aboriginals
because of its seeds. Aboriginals collected these seeds, put them in
the coolamon, and cleaned them before grinding them for consumption.
Spinifex grass was also used in making wax after burning it. This was
then used on woomera, spears and stone knives.
This symbol represents honey ants and is synonymous in most Australian
aboriginal work from central Australia. Honey ants were hunted by
aboriginal women who used digging sticks to burrow deep in the sand and
retrieve them. These ants produce a substance that resembles honey from
their abdomens and it’s regarded to be a special treat by the
This icon depicts the hunting process carried out by men. It represents
men sitting beside a water hole waiting for their kill armed with
woomeras, boomerangs and spears. This symbol is common in most
aboriginal artwork especially with aboriginals from Central Australia.
This symbol represents a bush turkey known to wander all day searching
for worms, berries, insects and seeds. These turkeys are hard to spot
as they sometimes camouflage themselves amongst anthill trees as well
as standing next to spinifex grasses. Their feathers are used for
decorative purposes in ceremonies by tying them onto a dancing stick.
This icon symbolizes tracks of a moving kangaroo. Aboriginal men hunt
this animal by following its tracks in the sand. The line at the center
depicts how a kangaroo’s tail moves along the sand.