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Aboriginal Message Stick

Australian Museum - Joy of Museums - Aboriginal Message Stick

These Aboriginal Message Sticks are a form of communication traditionally used by Indigenous Australians. It is usually a solid piece of wood, of varying length, etched with angular lines and dots. The patterns were used as a general reminder of the message.

Traditionally, message sticks were passed between different clans and language groups to transmit messages. They were often used to invite neighbouring groups to corroborees, set-fights and games.

An Australian anthropologist, wrote of the Wurundjeri people of the Melbourne area:

“The oldest man having made a message stick hands it to the old man nearest to him, who inspects it and if necessary, adds further marks …. Finally, the stick having passed from one to the other of the old men present is handed to the messenger, …”

Australian Museum - Joy of Museums - Australian Aboriginal Shields 2

Message Sticks are often commonly called letters by Aboriginal people. They were transmitted by messengers, who could travel hundreds of kilometres to deliver them. The carrier of the message stick was granted safe passage across other aboriginal nation’s lands.

Essential Facts:

  • Subject:        Aboriginal Message Stick
  • Material:       Wood
  • Dates:           19th & 20th Century
  • Museum:      Australian Museum

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“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.” – Australian Aboriginal saying

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Photo Credit:By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons