Glossary Term:


The Dreaming is an English language term that refers to an Aboriginal concept. The English language cannot capture and fully translate that which in the language of Pitjantjatjara people is named tjurkurrpa.

The expression ‘Dreaming’ (1899) was first coined by Spencer and Gillen (who conducted formative anthropological work on Australian history) from the Arrernte language word ‘alcheringa’.

Perhaps the best way to understand The Dreaming was voiced by anthropologist and historian WEH Stanner, who explained it thus: ‘it was, and is, everywhen’. The Dreaming is not a point in time. Gary Thomas refers to The Dreaming as a translation of the All-at-once Time which is experienced as a co-existing confluence of past, present and future.

The Dreaming establishes the structures of society and rules for social behaviour.  It determines how we relate to each other in terms of kinship and tells us how we are related to each other.

Each new circumstance is incorporated into The Dreaming. Significance of place is reflected in The Dreaming.

Following the law within the Dreaming ensures continuity of life and country and how people are expected to behave in their community.

The Dreaming should not be confused with ‘dreams’ or ‘dreamtime’.

‘We are the oldest and the strongest people, we’re here all of the time, we’re constant through the Dreaming which is happening now, there’s no such thing as the Dreamtime. (Karl Telfer, Kaurna people, Adelaide.)

Children learn how to behave according to The Dreaming at a very young age.

The ways in which Aboriginal children learn their responsibilities have been popularised in published versions of “teaching stories”.

Each Language Group has its own word and its own explanation of the creation process.

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