The Eora was the name given to the aboriginal group that lived in the Sydney region of Australia. The people actually called themselves the Cadigal. When the British arrived in this region in 1788, they asked the Cadigal where they came from and their answer was "Eora." This word meant "here" or "from this place." The British adopted this term to name these people and it has been used ever since. The descendants of the Cadigal still call themselves Eora, and Central Sydney is now sometimes called Eora Country.
The first human inhabitants to arrive in Australia came around 40,000 to 70,000 years ago. There are two main theories on how they arrived. The first is that they crossed a land bridge that existed from New Guinea during the Ice Age, while the second theory espouses that they came by boat. Upon arrival in Australia, these people rapidly spread across the continent and eventually had a population of at least 315,000, broken up into many diverse communities and hundreds of languages. When the British arrived in the 1700s, the aborigines were decimated by disease and displacement.
The Aboriginal people of Australia have much in common with each other but they are not a distinct entity. There have distinctive methods of subsistence, practices and languages yet there are some broad sets of shared commonalities. Most Aborigines on the continent were hunter-gatherers or fishermen and were not agriculturalists. Their diet consisted of kangaroo, emu, wombats, snakes and other creatures, including insects. They also ate taro, nuts, fruits and berries. They were nomadic, although there were some semi-permanent residences established around places where the fishing was good.
All Aboriginal cultures share a belief in the concept of Dreamtime, although these beliefs tend to vary among the various communities. Dreamtime stretches back to an early era in history when the creative ancestors came to Australia and created the land. Dreamtime is both simultaneously that early era and when a person dreams. This instills a reverence for the land and the ancestor spirits that created it. Many modern Aborigines, however, also have adopted Christianity and some Islam, as part of their world view.
During the Dreamtime, the creators were men and women who had taken the form of spirits. These spirits created the land, the waterways, the skies, the peoples and all other forms of life. There is a Great Spirit that watches over everything, whom the Eora have named Biami. There are spirit places such as waterholes and caves where spirits reside. Some of these spirits are good while others are evil. Eora children were warned not to swim in certain areas because of evil spirits. Among the creations that occurred during Dreamtime were spirit children and spirit animals. Every person comes into existence when a spirit child enters a mother's body. The spirit resides with the newborn throughout life then after death the spirit returns to the spirit place to await rebirth. This belief in reincarnation has existed for over 40,000 years.