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Boomerangs of Aboriginal Australia
The boomerang today is an Australian symbol.
Because of its ability to return the tourism and transport markets have made the boomerang a popular symbol.
Boomerangs are a form of throwing stick for Indigenous Australians.
Aboriginal people were the first to understand the principles of aerodynamics with the creation of the boomerang with one arm angled at about 120 degrees to the other.
A properly thrown boomerang should return. The top and bottom sides of each arm are carved so that when the boomerang is thrown with a spin, the air flowing over the surface will force the stick on a rising curve outwards and then on a descending curve inwards. It is thrown with a wrist flick.
In Aboriginal Australia boomerangs were either thrown on the ground or in the air revolving on themselves with such a velocity that it is hard to see them returning. Only its whizzing can be heard.
The name “boomerang” was used by Sydney Aborigines but in other parts of Australia it was known by different names.
Boomerangs were not used all over Australia. For instance, they were not in Tasmania, Cape York, parts of Arnhem Land, the Kimberley coast or parts of South Australia.
In Central Australia and the Northern Territory a hooked variety of boomerang was used.
Hunting boomerangs have the capability of flying at high speeds close to the ground and they can kill or stun the animals they strike. These larger, heavier varieties can injure large game such as kangaroos.
Lighter boomerangs whirr over the tops of trees full of nesting birds. This frightens them into hunters’ nets.
Apart from hunting, boomerangs are also used for ceremonial purposes. If clapped together, they become a musical instrument to accompany ceremonial dancers. Decorated boomerangs are still used in ceremonial performances.
Boomerang as a tool
Large and heavy boomerangs were also used as tools to cut, dig and make fire, and became trade items.
While highly effective for hunting, boomerangs were also used as hand-held weapons, as blades, used for digging, and for making fire and scraping.
When a boomerang is made it is selected from an appropriate branch which has the right angle and flow of grain. It is then carved, smoothed and polished and can be decorated either with paint or incised.
Boomerang throwing remains a popular past time.
First People Then And Now
Barlow. Alex and Hill, Marji The Macmillan Encyclopedia Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples. South Yarra, Vic., Macmillan Education, 2000.
Horton, David, ed. The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia. Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994.