Aboriginal Moiety

Aboriginal moiety is one of the three key building blocks of the Australian Aboriginal kinship system, along with Aboriginal skin names and Aboriginal totems (also known as Dreamings). Moiety is a belief system adopted by many Indigenous communities that acknowledges that everything is split into mirrored halves–and that these halves must come together to form a whole for us to fully understand the universe.

Understanding Aboriginal Kinship

To understand the significance of Aboriginal moiety, one must first grasp the concept of Aboriginal kinship. The Australian Aboriginal kinship system is as complicated as it is interesting, but it’s one of the key tenets of the First Nations community. 

In its simplest form, Aboriginal kinship is not any different from family. It forms the foundation of the society, from which members gain emotional, spiritual, and cultural support. 

However, unlike in Western culture, which defines ‘kinship’ as immediate or nuclear, Aboriginal kinship is more expansive. This is because Indigenous kinship looks beyond just blood relations; it considers the interpersonal and societal connections of different individuals.

Aboriginal kinship describes a person’s responsibilities towards other people, the land, and natural resources. It determines relationships between people and their surroundings and is structured to create a cohesive and harmonious community. 

Aboriginal kinship systems vary across First Nations communities. But in general, they underscore a communal closeness that transcends blood. For example, members of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community may have many mothers, fathers, siblings, uncles, and aunties to whom they are not directly related but are considered as such by their Aboriginal kinship system.

The Foundations of Aboriginal Kinship

Aboriginal kinship is formed by three key building blocks: moiety, totems, and skin names. Here’s a brief overview of each one:

Aboriginal Moiety

According to moiety, everything is split into halves that mirror each other, including an individual and their environment. To understand the whole universe, these two halves must come together and form a whole.

This belief system is also present in Aboriginal kinship. As such, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities usually have unilineal descent, either matrilineal (based on the mother) or patrilineal (based on the father). This way, any person belongs to one of the two moiety groups by birth, and all marriages take place between members of opposite moieties.

People can share the same moiety, and those that do are considered siblings. Having the same moiety also means having a duty to support the other. People of the same moiety are forbidden to marry each other.

Aboriginal Totems

Aboriginal totems (or Dreamings) are spiritual emblems taken from an element of nature, like a plant or an animal. Each Indigenous person is given at least four totems: one each for their family, clan, and nation, and another that’s personal to them. The first three totems are preordained and given at birth, while personal totems are given later on and reflect one’s strengths and weaknesses.

Aboriginal totems link individuals to the earth and assign a responsibility of stewardship towards their symbol. First Nations people must ensure that their totems are protected and passed on to the next generation.

Aboriginal totems are also split between moieties to create a balance of protection and use. For example, members of one moiety are responsible for sustaining the population of crabs, while the other is allowed to consume it for food.

Aboriginal Skin Names

Aboriginal skin names indicate a person’s bloodline, demonstrating how they are linked to generations before and after them and how they should relate to their community. Skin names are usually passed down through a sequential system across a cycle of generations. The structure is set so that everyone is part of an extended family; each person has several parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles based on the Aboriginal kinship system.

Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Australian Aboriginal Kinship System with Evolve Communities

Evolve Communities aims to build a stronger and more inclusive Australia by educating all citizens about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, including the Australian Aboriginal kinship system. Our cultural competency and ally training programs are designed to help people better understand and align with First Nations communities and are administered through easy and engaging workshops. Check out our website to learn how you can join our programs!

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