Understanding Australia's history and first peoples

Australia has a complex history dating back 60,000 years and begins with Australia's first peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

To help broaden your understanding, we've pulled together helpful resources for you to learn about Australia's rich history and vibrant culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are the first people of Australia, meaning they were here for thousands of years prior to colonisation in 1788.

Research suggests that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have lived on this continent for more than 60,000 years making them the oldest living culture in the world.

The Aboriginal Heritage Office provides a brief history of Australia and life before and after colonisation.  

Impacts of colonisation

Colonisation has deeply impacted generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, which is still felt today.

This animation video will help you understand the gravity of that impact, often referred to as intergenerational trauma.

Changes to the land

Before Europeans arrived, Australia’s land and vegetation was very different to what you see today. The landscape has changed profoundly since colonisation.

You can learn more about the land before and after colonisation from the Indigenous Knowledge Institute.

One country, many nations

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People make up 200 different and distinct nations, known as ‘Country’, across Australia.

Acknowledging when you’re on the land of Traditional Owners is a sign of respect which acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People ownership and custodianship of the land, their ancestors and traditions.

Find out which Country you're on and how to acknowledge Country.


Each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nation has their own culture, language, beliefs, and practices. Family relationships and kinship systems are different to western structures. In a kinship system, each person has a role or position. The position defines that person’s responsibilities in the community, including their responsibilities to Country.

Learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship.


There are many terms used to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

To make sure you’re using the correct terms, head to Language and Terminology Guide.


While living in Australia, it’s helpful to understand the notion of reconciliation. Reconciliation is about strengthening the connections between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and non-Indigenous peoples. It is ongoing and acknowledges past injustices and promotes respect and understanding of Aboriginal culture and identity.

Reconciliation Australia is the lead body for reconciliation in Australia, read more about reconciliation on their website Reconciliation Australia.


Despite the deep trauma felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from the impact of colonisation, their strength and resilience persist with positive inter-generational change.

These healing resources are helping break the cycle of intergenerational trauma.

Keep learning

There are many ways to immerse yourself in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture today and continue to learn more about Australia’s first peoples.

A few good places to start are Tourism Australia’s Discover Aboriginal Experiences brochure, which includes Indigenous experiences, Common Ground for First Nations’ knowledge and story sharing and Australians Together for more learning resources.

Medibank’s commitment to reconciliation

You can read about Medibank’s commitment to reconciliation in its Reconciliation Action Plan 2022-2024.

Looking for something else?

Visit our Overseas Health Cover Guides homepage to find more information and advice.

Your guide to navigating Australian healthcare

Most visitors to Australia have no access to Medicare. Like most countries in the world, health care costs in Australia can be expensive.

Need some help?

We’re here to help you choose the health cover that matches your needs while you’re in Australia. Contact Medibank how it suits you; online 24/7, WeChat, in-store or by phone.

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