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Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family History: Traditional Kinship System Resources

This guide has been written to assist Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander family historians locate sources available to them at James Cook University, as well as some suggestions for resources located elsewhere.

Australian Aboriginal Kinship systems: Moities, Skin Groups

When researching your Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family history you may come across terms such as kin system, classificatory relative, skin group or moiety or even see paperwork from your ancestors. These are usually academic English terms used to describe traditional Indigenous Australian family and relationship concepts. These concepts and structures can be quite different from the dominant Australian English cultural understanding and language terms used to describe family structures in Australia nowadays.

These system are still utilised in many parts of Australia. If you are unaware of the these,  it is best to seek out a knowledgeable family member or friend who can explain or help you understand these terms in context of your family and point out any inaccuracies that might be in records you find. There are many resources that can help you broaden your understanding of how these terms were applied by academics and researchers, and also how Aboriginal Australian or Torres Strait Islander may have used English to try to explain concepts which have no direct equivalent English word.

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country