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The creation of marriage alliances and the obligations that this involved were closely linked with relationships to the land.
This carries implications about the nature of promised marriage.
An important factor in determining the parties to a marriage was the balancing of kinship obligations, including reciprocal obligations between individuals, families or larger groups.
The interests of the parties, and their attraction or affection for each other, were considered subsidiary to these obligations.
Indeed it was possible for a girl to be betrothed before she was born and to grow up knowing who her future husband was likely to be.
The promised relationship created a series of lifelong responsibilities and obligations between the young man and his promised wife’s relations.
Berndt and Berndt suggest that unmarried women were very rare, but there are occasionally unmarried men: Berndt & Berndt (1985) 196-7.
Both are, however, more common today: Bell & Ditton, 91; A Hamilton, ‘Gender and Power in Aboriginal Australia’, in N Grieve & P Grimshaw (ed) Australian Women, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1981, 76.A man’s first marriage would not necessarily fall into this category: his first wife might well be an older widow.A girl could be betrothed either as a potential mother-in-law or as a wife.This might involve arranging a substitute or agreeing to compensate the aggrieved person in some way.225. The age of marriage was very different for men and women, and differed also as between various parts of Australia.Usually, a girl would marry at or about the age of puberty; Among some Aboriginal groups, at least, marriages were often polygynous (with a husband having two or more wives): a wife, on the other hand, would have only one husband at a time, although usually she would be married to several husbands in succession, as the former husband died or the marriage broke up.If we explore the web of relations which surround an arranged marriage entered into at the time of initiation of a young male, we find that at least three generations are implicated.