Chiara Tellarini

The Dreaming: Stories as intermediaries between people and land in Aboriginal Australia


The Dream Time, or Dreaming, refers to the stories that tell about the creation of the world and of all its beings in the Aboriginal Australian history and mythology. While telling these creation stories, connection with place is recreated every time and, for this reason, the Dreaming is constantly present, and it does not belong merely to a mythical period that does not exist anymore. Stanner refers to the Dream Time as something common, but not universal (Stanner 1979: 114), since in each Aboriginal group these stories cannot be universalized because they all refer to specific, diverse places: this relates to the fact that even the actions taken towards the land cannot be universalized, since knowledge is related to a particular locality.

These stories signify a balance to be maintained with the land and its elements, and this, holistically, is regarded as a guarantee of reciprocal social balance.

By acting locally, with regard to the elements a person is responsible for, people implicitly act also for the communities living on the other side of the country (e.g. by taking care of a river’s section, people living along that river in other parts of the country will be affected by those actions).

In this, stories signify the telling of this balance and the maintenance of the connection with the land that include the past and the present, making the future possible for the people, the animals and the natural elements living on it.

When colonizers came, they imposed their knowledge and their actions on the Aboriginal land, introducing concepts such as land ownership and private property: all this clashed with Aboriginal peoples’ cosmologies, stories and behaviours, implying critical consequences also on land’s and peoples’ wellbeing.


Chiara Tellarini has recently earned her master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Bologna, with a thesis based on medical and environmental anthropology. Her current research interests include the connections between culture, health, and environment, especially in post–colonial realities. Drawing on the experiences of Aboriginal communities in New South Wales and Victoria (Australia), her master research focuses on how a forced changed relationship with land during colonization affected Aboriginal peoples’ wellbeing, and on how this also contributed to altering the Australian environment.
Chiara has been offered a Ph.D. position at Aalborg University (campus Copenhagen), where she will start in August 2021.

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