Koorie Life in the Pre-Contact Era

When developing units of work on this particular topic, the following learnings need to be considered:

Land Organisation

  • Koorie People cared for specific areas of land. Knowledge regarding the extent of and responsibilities for this land was passed on by the elders through generations. Territories were based on language group and clan associations, which in turn gave a person his/her strongest sense of identity.
  • Each territory was further sub-divided among the clans of that territory. The boundaries of clan land were well known by all. With some exceptions, sovereignty was respected.
  • Clan groups lived in broader regional alliances based on language and on economic and social co-operation. Koorie people today continue to identify strongly with the places from which their ancestors came.
  • Koorie people today often introduce themselves by stating where they and their ancestors are from. A birthplace and its features remain of central importance to Koorie people's individual and family identity.


  • The boundaries of a territory sometimes followed natural features, some of which overlapped. There were some neutral zones and some boundaries that were disputed. Boundaries were crossed by invitation from the holders of the land or they could be crossed illegally for hostile actions.


  • Clans invited neighbouring clans into their territory for social and economic reasons. The interaction was usually mutually beneficial. These occasions were governed by custom and ritual. Conflict sometimes occurred between adjacent clans in the form of warfare, raids and abductions.


  • As with all societies, the resources, climate and topography within a territory strongly influenced the way of life of the Indigenous people who live there. The specific distribution of plants, animals and other resources was unique in each territory and affected the precise way the Koorie people developed a relationship with that specific environment. Within south-eastern Australia, Koorie life varied enormously.
  • Koorie people saw themselves as a part of the environment and formed sustainable relationships with it.