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Mawunmula Garawirrtja cools off in a tidal pool while gathering food at low tide with her grandmother. (National Geographic)

Photographing What Endures For Australia's Aboriginals

by Claire O'Neill
May 30, 2013

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Claire O'Neill

In Australian media, there is no shortage of coverage of the Aboriginal population. And, according to photographer Amy Toensing, the coverage is not always favorable.

"On paper, the truth is there's some really hard stuff going on [within the Aboriginal population] — like with alcoholism and education," Toensing says over the phone from New York.

So when she convinced National Geographic in 2009 to invest in a long-term documentary about Aboriginal culture, Toensing decided to take a different approach:

"It's about people and how they are still connected to the land," she says of her work. "The moment you start spending time in Aboriginal communities ... you can tell there's this really powerful connection to the Australian landscape."

Nearly four years after starting the project, Toensing's work has culminated in National Geographic's June issue. But the magazine can only fit so many photos in its pages. And only so many online. So Toensing shared a few extras with us here.

The magazine article written by Michael Finkel takes a comprehensive look at life in Aboriginal communities today — and includes a few striking facts, like: "More than a half million Aboriginals currently live in Australia, less than three percent of the [original] population."

Although stories like these often emphasize "a community in decline," Toensing's photos celebrate what has endured. And although the story has gone to print, for Toensing it's to be continued. She plans to return in July.

"I can't get enough," she says.

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