About Songlines

Australian Aboriginal Songlines are the paths that our traditional ancestors followed across the land. Dreamtime ancestors made the Songlines as part of our creation stories during the Rivers of Dreaming and so they are sacred. Every single thing has essence and this essence is in the Songlines. The path of the Songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance and art and differ from place to place. They were taught through ceremony and were an important part of both the individual and family obligations to practice their culture.

Indigenous Australians could navigate across the land by singing the songs in a certain sequence, often travelling vast distances through desert country, monsoonal weather, and all types of rugged terrain. Early anthropologists never did meet a lost Aboriginal person seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The songlines are like maps of the landscape and the stars. They have a certain melodic rhythm that is the same as walking on the songline and observing the land. The stories held in the songlines encompass law, culture and spirituality so that every living thing continues to thrive. Singing up the land keeps the land alive and the spirit of her people strong.

The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines. In some cases, they can span the lands of several different language groups and Aboriginal Nations. Each group holds their part of the songlines sung in their language. To travel across these lands meant learning the songlines in this language, and permission would be granted when this section of the songline was taught to the traveller and ensured their safety. The safety of all travellers was (and still is) the responsibility of the traditional owners, hence the importance of being Welcomed to Country and acknowledging the elders past and present.

Where a songline has a particular direction, such as water flowing down Uluru, walking the wrong way is not only sacrilegious but could harm those who go against it. The Anangu people, traditional owners of Uluru and Katajuta, ask people not to climb the sacred rock for this reason. They feel responsible should something happen.

Each tribe had a Keeper of the Songs and Stories who would teach them at appropriate times and occasions, and hand down the teachings to the next generation. Preserving the integrity of the songlines is the same as caring for themselves, their family and their environment.