Though much time was spent in family groups marriage could occur across tribes although marriage was mostly pre-arranged within the tribe, some men having several wives and brothers sometimes exchanging wives.
Authority within groups resided in older men, the ‘Elders’, whose high status was related to their experience, especially their knowledge of the Dreaming and the land.
Each Aboriginal nation tended to develop its own particular laws, religious beliefs, and history and although nations interacted for marriage, trade and other reasons it was not a single fixed culture but many cultures changing over time.
Ceremonies and rituals assisted mourning and connection with the ancestral world, rites of passage, economic exchange, and were also a means of passing on and reinforcing stories of the Dreaming. Males were initiated through graded levels of knowledge before they could take on the responsibility of being and Elder.
Social roles and responsibilities were related to age and gender but, overwhelmingly, from a sense of place within the spiritual history of a particular landscape. Even so it was the connection by birth of an individual or group to a piece of land that defined their identity. Men hunted the larger game of wallabies, kangaroo, waterfowl, crocodiles, turtles, and fish while the women and children gathered plant foods consisting of fruit, seed, tubers and greens, along with smaller creatures like grubs, frogs, lizards, shellfish and burrowing animals, the women often having their own carved or decorated all-purpose digging sticks with a fire-hardened point that was used to extract roots and prise open burrows, the gathered food then being carried in woven bags and containers made from bark or wood. A nomadic lifestyle meant that children, though cared for, were a burden so infanticide and abortion were quite common. In contrast European children were raised in larger families with shorter space between deliveries and as they were raised on milk from sheep, goats or cows, were weaned earlier.
Over most of history disease appears to have been rare except for the extreme vulnerability to European diseases, the zoonoses that had originated in domesticated animals. Migrating birds could have carried have spread some disease between continents.