top of page

13 Indigenous innovations that are truly amazing

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people were and still are one of the most technologically progressive civilisations in the world. Their adaptability under difficult circumstances is a testimony to their ingenuity. Enduring the diverse geography was crucial to their existence and as such needed equipment to assistance with thriving in these conditions. The extensive collection of Aboriginal innovations that we created show a profound sense about science and dature due to living in "on Country" and by watching the seasons and interacting with nature.

Here are some of the most important innovations that helped our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors thrive through Millenia.

Thermoplastic Resins

Spinifex grass, The first super glue and thermoplastic resin. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander used this as a form of glue for 1000's of years

The first superglue!

Spinifex Grass is found in most parts of Australia. The resin is beaten out of the porcupine grass and grass trees. After this process, it is washed and heated it over a fire to create a sticky black substance that is heat sensitive, reusable glue. It was mixed with animal droppings, fur and charcoal and forms cement like properties.

This material that hardens as it cools was used to fuse spears to woomera's, as it is water proof used to patch water vessels and water crafts such as canoes.

Today, the university of Queensland in partnership with Indigenous rangers from Camooweal are using Spinifex grass and resin to commercially manufacturer the world's strongest, thinnest condoms!

The Boomerang

Boomerang from the Lake Narran area, New South Wales, acquired in 1945 by Australian Musuem

Did you know? Boomerangs should only be used by men.

Indigenous culture had a very gender specific culture. With the men having the job of hunting meat the boomerang was designed to be used to disable animals such as kangaroo, wallaby and birds and as such either injuring or killing the animal for the hunter.

The aerodynamic design of Boomerangs, Its design with its angles and asymmetrical arches, displays the asymmetrical lift, one of the most complex principles of aerodynamics.Some Boomerangs are designed to circle more then once. Hunters would mimic different birds, which would trick the birds into think they were under attack and they would fly low and together in a flock whereby the Indigenous hunter could throw the Boomerang and have ore chance of hitting a bird.

The Indigenous hunter had a variety of sizes of Boomerangs and they all had different purposes. From slim, sleek design that was designed to travel fast so that if it missed its target would travel back quickly so they could throw again. Larger Boomerangs were non-symmetrical with one end being heavier then the other so that it picked up speed as it was thrown. These Boomerangs were used for larger animals such as Kangaroo, these would break the leg of the animals and disable them so the hunter could reach them.

Fact: Indigenous people were inventive they even had boomerangs with serrated edges which was designed to clip wings of birds

The Woomera

Woomera from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. Aboriginal Spear

Traditionally used only by men.

The word “Woomera” is believed to be from the Dharug language of the Eora people of the Sydney basin. The woomera is a wooden Australian Aboriginal spear-throwing device. This tool serves as leverage to achieve greater velocity in spear-throwing. It is also an extension of the human arm that enables the spear to travel at a greater speed and force than possible with an unaided arm.

It is believed that the Woomera was being used as a hunting tool as far back as 5000 year's ago, it is still used today in many remote Indigenous Communities.

This tools had a variety of uses and was dependent on what area of Australia you lived in. Coastal Tribes used fish bones on the tips to spear fish while desert areas used stone tips. Woomera were also used as axe heads, digging sticks and knives.

Weirs and Fish Traps

Aboriginal fish traps: effective and efficient technology

The ingenuity of Indigenous people has been proven as high-level as we display our innate understanding of engineering, physics, and aquaculture. Through intricate designs of fish traps and fish farms, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been able to achieve a sustainable food source by creating an elaborate system of canals, linked weirs, and ponds out of river stones.

One of the most famous fish traps are located on the Barwon River at Brewarrina, it is believed that these fish traps are one of the oldest manmade structures in the world, also known as Baize's Ngunnhu.

When the water is low you can see the exposed rocks arranged in a circular way. 12 Tear-drop shaped pools that stretch for more then a kilometre. Fish were headed through these ponds and then the hunters would close of the pools with rocks. This forms walls which are at different heights allowing them to be used at different water heights and hence having fish in these traps no matter what the water level.

In 2005 these traps at Brewarrina were added to Australia's national heritage list. They are described as “the largest traps recorded”, showcasing a thorough understanding of “dry stone wall construction techniques, river hydrology and fish ecology”. Due to their size, design and complexity they were considered “exceptionally rare”

Gomolaroi, Wonkamurra, Wailwan & Ngemba people were all involved in maintaining and sharing the traps for thousands of years.