Indigenous Australians

Although there are a number of commonalities between Indigenous Aboriginal Australians, there is also a great diversity among different Indigenous communities and societies in Australia, each with its own mixture of cultures, customs and languages. In present-day Australia these groups are further divided into local communities. At the time of initial European settlement, over 250 languages were spoken; it is currently estimated that 120 to 145 of these remain in use, but only 13 of these are not considered endangered. Aboriginal people today mostly speak English, with Aboriginal phrases and words being added to create Australian Aboriginal English (which also has a tangible influence of Indigenous languages in the phonology and grammatical structure). The population of Indigenous Australians at the time of permanent European settlement is contentious and has been estimated at between 318,000 and 1,000,000 with the distribution being similar to that of the current Australian population, the majority living in the south-east, centred along the Murray River. A population collapse principally from disease followed European settlement beginning with a smallpox epidemic spreading three years after the arrival of Europeans. Massacres and war by British settlers also contributed to depopulation. The characterisation of this violence as genocide is controversial and disputed.
It is generally believed that Aboriginal people are the descendants of a single migration into the continent, a people that split from the first modern human populations to leave Africa 64,000 to 75,000 years ago, although a minority proposed an earlier theory that there were three waves of migration, most likely island hopping by boat during periods of low sea levels (see Prehistory of Australia). Recent work with mitochondrial DNA suggests a founder population of between 1,000 and 3,000 women to produce the genetic diversity observed, which suggests "that initial colonization of the continent would have required deliberate organized sea travel, involving hundreds of people". Aboriginal people seem to have lived a long time in the same environment as the now extinct Australian megafauna.
Hundreds of Indigenous Australians served in the Australian armed forces during World War Two including with the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion and The Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, which were established to guard Australia's North against the threat of Japanese invasion. However, most were denied pension rights and military allotments, except in Victoria, where each case was judged individually, without a blanket denial of rights accruing from their service.
The voices of Indigenous Australians are being increasingly noticed and include the playwright Jack Davis and Kevin Gilbert. Writers coming to prominence in the 21st century include Alexis Wright, Kim Scott, twice winner of the Miles Franklin award, Tara June Winch, in poetry Yvette Holt and in popular fiction Anita Heiss. Australian Aboriginal poetry ranging from sacred to everyday is found throughout the continent.
To combat the problem, a number of programs to prevent or mitigate alcohol abuse have been attempted in different regions, many initiated from within the communities themselves. These strategies include such actions as the declaration of "Dry Zones" within Indigenous communities, prohibition and restriction on point-of-sale access, and community policing and licensing.