The Australian Aborigines were arguably the world's first astronomers. Their complex systems of knowledge and beliefs about the heavenly bodies have evolved as an integral part of a culture that has been handed down through song, dance and ritual for some 40,000 years, predating by many millennia those of the Babylonians, the ancient Greeks, the Chinese, the Indians and the Incas.
For the Aborigines, the stars not only evoked wonder; they also predicted and explained natural occurrences and provided celestial parallels with tribal experiences and behavioural codes.
The Aborigines' knowledge of the crowded southern sky was probably the most comprehensive possible for people dependent on the naked eye. They made accurate observations, not only of first and second order stars, but even of more inconspicuous fourth-magnitude stars, and in so doing devised a complex seasonal calendar based on the position of the constellations in the sky. Pattern was apparently more important than brightness for the Aborigines , who often identified a small cluster of relatively obscure stars while ignoring more conspicuous single stars.
Colour was also an important factor in the designation of stars. The Aranda tribes of Central Australia distinguished red stars from white, blue, and yellow stars.
The Aborigines also differentiated between the nightly movement of the stars from east to west and the more gradual annual shift of the constellations. From the latter displacement they devised a complex seasonal calendar based on the location of constellations in the sky, particularly at sunrise or sunset. Aboriginal tribes also knew that certain stars lying to the south, namely Iritjinga and the Pointer of the Cross-are visible throughout the year, although their position in the sky varies. This amounts to a discovery that stars within a certain distance of the South Celestial Pole never fall below the horizon.
As hunter-gatherers, dependent for their survival on a knowledge of environmental changes, the Aborigines noted, in particular, the correlation between the movements and patterns of stars and changes in the weather or other events related to the seasonal supply of food. As might be expected, the significance attributed to these sidereal occurrences varies with the diet and lifestyle of different tribes.
Reading & References: Roslynn D. Haynes - article "Aboriginal Astronomy" Australian Journal of Astronomy