Indigenous Weather Knowledge

Ngoorabul calendar


The Ngoorabul peoples traditional country covers the Glens Innes Highlands, including Boorabee and The Willows Indigenous Protected Area.
The Ngoorabul people manage around 3000 hectares of land, and hope to conserve the Koala (Burrbii) on their land.
The Ngoorabul people use traditional fire management practices to manage the region.



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Storm time

Afternoon Burning

Dew puts fire out at day’s end

Cyclone time

Best Time for Cool Fire

Won’t get out of control

Windy time

Cold Weather time

Need to pick right pocket to burn

Windy time

Getting Too Hot/Windy

Fires won’t go out

Hot time

Too Hot Or Wet To Burn

Permission to host the Ngoorabul seasonal calendar is given to the Bureau by the Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council and Michelle McKemey. Ownership of the knowledge contained within remains with the community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are advised that the following webpage may contain names or images of people who have died

Ngoorabul Fire and Seasons Calendar

Navigate back up to the calendar overview with the links at the end of each season

Learn more about the Ngoorabul seasonal cycle:
Download the graphic calendar with its seasons (JPG)



MALI’YAN ( Wedge-tailed eagle)

NUN’DAH (River)

OPARRA (Native cherry)

Environmental Indicators:

Beard Heath (Leucopogon) is fruiting– we eat the berries. We used to eat Mistletoe fruit as kids, they are yellow when ripe. We eat the Native Cherries in summer. Sacred Kingfishers can be seen down at the gorge near the river at the time of year. There are many Wedge-tailed eagles at the Willows-Boorabee IPA. They have been here forever, they nest here and we see them regularly. They are considered to be a higher power. The Severn River floods in summer and autumn after random big rains. Mussels were an important food source year round– we have found many shells in rock shelters and around the Willows.





TUURII (Bells’ turtle/Western saw shell turtle)

BULAGRII (Eastern long neck turtle)

MIRRIDJIN (Broad shell turtle)

NOOCOORBEEN (Blossom of apple tree)

GOORA (Blossom)

Environmental Indicators:

Kangaroo grass seeds during Jan-Feb. Kangaroo grass seeds were ground, made into damper and eaten. Lomandra is seeding. Lomandra was used to weave baskets, make fishing nets and as clothing or to carry a baby. A woman had a Lomandra locket with her husband’s hair at a wedding site near Glen Innes. Snow grass is seeding. Rough-barked apple and Mistletoe flowing. The Bell’s turtle which is threatened under NSW and Federal legislation, is found in the Severn River and Arrawatta Creek. Turtle eggs hatch around February. Long necked turtles are also found in the river and these were eaten. Seeding grasses including Native Millet and Spinifex/Porcupine grass provide a food resource for threatened Turquoise parrots and Red-browed finches.





BANDARR (Eastern grey kangaroo)

DANDUR (Wallaroo)

WAA’GUUII (Scrub wallaby)

WIIGUL (Rock wallaby)

Environmental Indicators:

Flowering eucalypts attract small flocks of Musk lorikeets, threatened Little lorikeets and groups of Yellow-faced honeyeaters, White-eared honeyeaters, Brown-headed honeyeaters, White-naped honeyeaters and Noisy friarbirds. Scarlet honeyeaters feed on nectar from flowering mistletoes. Eastern grey kangaroos and Common wallaroos take advantage of new grass growth following summer and autumn rains. Macropods were an important food source– young Eastern grey kangaroos were the best eating. Other macropods at The Willows-Boorabee include Red necked wallabies and Swamp wallabies. The Kangaroo apple fruits at the end of summer.





BURR’BII (Koala)

MARRUU (Quoll)

Environmental Indicators:

Sometimes we can hear the Koala bucks calling. We used to see Koalas everywhere, now we occasionally see Koalas at Boorabee (in Autumn). We think a big fire burnt them all out, hopefully they will come back with the right fire management. Spotted-tailed quoll, Common dunnart and Yellow-footed antechinus are breeding with the males roaming widely. Frogs are active, notable Peron’s tree frog, Whistling tree frog, Plains froglet and Pobblebonk. You can hear the fish slapping the water as they catch the frogs and eat them. The ripe fruits of the Poison pimelea are eaten by threatened Turquoise parrots and Spiny-cheeked honeyeaters at this time of year. Many bird species are travelling past the Willows-Boorabee heading north, including threatened Dusky wood-swallows, White-bellied cuckoo-shrikes and Tree martins.





MOOKRUM (Urn heath)

Environmental Indicators:

Urn heath flowering. Black wattle was used as a fish poison– it takes oxygen out of the water and stuns the fish. The best time of year to do this is when the river is low. Wattle seeds were also soaked in water/boiled, crushed, made into damper. Also used like tea or coffee. The Willows-Boorabee IPA provides habitat for declining woodland bird species and mostly ground foraging bird species. At this time of year, these birds are feeding in woodland and forest areas, including the threatened species Brown tree creepers, Speckled warblers and Diamond firetails. More common species include Chestnut-rumped heathwrens, Yellow-rumped thornbills, White-browned babblers, Jacky winters and Double-barred finches





BILLAR (Forest oak/Belah)

HOLPIN (Scrub oak)

TULGIL (Cypress pine)


Environmental Indicators:

Greenhood and onion orchids flowering. If children get lost, they were told to sit under the Hairy oak trees as snakes wouldn’t go near it due to the rough bark. This slow burning timber was used to carry coals from one camp to another. Uncle Dale made a boomerang from the bent root of the tree.





MAN’DAA, GURRILL (large) (Murray cod)

WAG’GAR-BAL (Catfish)


NILLA (Hook for grubs)

NULLO, NINDORE (Dilly bag)

Environmental Indicators:

During cold time, big Murray cod settle in the waterholes. They move slowly and don’t fight when they are caught. Little fish are around throughout the rest of the year. Cold weather is time to look for Witchetty grubs. They change colour according to what plant they live in - the yellow grubs are in the root of the wattle, the red grubs are found in the wood of the red gum. We use a hooky wire to fish them out of the wood, you have to be quick and quiet or they will get away. Kangaroos stand still in the paddock and don’t move away when you go near them.





NGAR’RUU (Honey/sugar bag)

GIRRUU (Grass tree honey)

MARRAR (Lomandra)

KAO, KOB/BAI (Small bee), BOO (Large bee)

PROBICCULLO (Bubble bee)



Environmental Indicators:

The Red ironbark flowers during winter and spring, bees make delicious honey from its blossoms. Its hard timber was used to make shields. Wattles flower as the weather starts to warm up. Some bush foods come up after fire but others won’t fruit for a few years after the fire, such as Leucopogon. If you burn too often, you will kill these plants out. Geebungs don’t like fire– these were good bush tucker. Mookrum resprouts after fire– it fruits about 12 months after the fire. Lomandra comes back after fire. Some native yams are found in this country but Pigs eat them out along with ground orchids. Honey from native bees was an important bush tucker. In the old days, Ngoorabul people used to climb trees to collect sugar bag. Murray cod are spawning and aggressive– we don't fish for them at this time. Tabbies come out and can be found until April when the water cools down. Yabbies were a big part of the diet for Ngoorabul people, we collected swampy grass, put some meat in there, the crayfish would crawl in and get caught– then we could cook and eat them.





BURR-BURR (Grass tree)

N’YUN’DAH (Tree)


Environmental Indicators:

Johnson’s grass tree flowered in the Porcupine grass area following a burn in 2015 which attracted Yellow-tufted honeyeaters and Noisy friarbirds. The grass trees are a culturally important species used for resin and bush tucker. Grass trees were known as the fire tree and used for fire drills and torches/fire sticks. We can only get it a certain time of year when it dries out and we use it in place of tinder. These fire trees were burnt as the old people walked part them– it brings them back and helps you find your track again. Echidnas are active in the early morning. Sometimes we see mating trains. The echidna is a favourite bush tucker, to prepare it we pull out the tongue and take the glands out of the throat, then we cook it. Many orchids are flowering at Boorabee, including Sun, Fairy, Donkey and Copper beard orchids, as well as Early Nancies, and the Kunzea and Bitter pea shrubs.





GAAR’ABUL (Cockatoo), GUBI (Possum)

BAAY (Dunnart/Kangaroo Rat)

WURRA (White gum), ORR’A (Manna gum)

KULL-EEN/YA (Black snake)

Environmental Indicators:

Donkey orchids flowering– the tubers of this plant were an important good resource for Aboriginal people in south eastern Australia– they ’were once everyday vegetables for Aboriginal people’. Urn heath fruiting. Reptiles active during the day include Nobbis (dragons), Lace monitors and Red-bellied black snakes. Bandy bandys forage actively at night. Dragons lay their eggs on the road. Lace monitors (goannas) are a favoured bush tucker. White cockatoos nest in gums in spring. Platypus breed in spring– the males are active this time of year. Juvenile spotted-tailed quolls are becoming independent of their mother and Common brushtail possums are carrying well-grown young on their backs at this time. Also Common dunnarts with well-grown young in their nests and many micro-bats active (particularly about canopies of flowering eucalypts) and feeding young in maternity roosts including the fluttering bats– Lesser long-eared bats, Goulds long-eared bats and threatened South-eastern (Corben’s) long-eared bats and also Little forest bats and threatened Eastern cave bats.





GAM’MIRA-BUL (Crimson Rosella)

WUG’UL-BUU-TUU (Red Wing Parrot)

GIMMA (Feather tailed rat)

BANGU (Squirrel glider)

MUBUUBIIRBITBIIN (Grey iron bark), BUG-GIL-EE (Ironbark)

YARRA (Red gum)

Environmental Indicators:

Yellow box and Blakely’s red gum flowering adjacent to the Severn River. Tumbledown red gum and Narrow-leaved ironbark flowering through the central section of the IPA. When Eucalypts flower, many birds (especially parrots and honeyeaters), bats, gliders, possums and insects gather to feed from the flowers. There are lots of Eastern brown snakes in the area– they were eaten, their heads were cut off. Peregrine falcon pair nesting in Severn River Gorge feeding young in nest on Musk lorikeets, Starlings. White-browed woodswallows and Masked woodswallows coming in on storm fronts hawking insects in late spring, also White-throated needletails taking insects high overhead. Bell’s turtles lay their eggs November/December. Weeping bottlebrush is flowering along the Severn River attracting groups of Little red flying-foxes, and honeyeaters including Spiny-cheeked honeyeaters, Red wattlebirds, Scarlet honeyeaters and Striped honeyeaters.






BOO’-ROO (Thunderstorm)

Environmental Indicators:

The Threatened plant Rodd’s star hair is flowering. This precious plant is a favourite food of goats so the rangers have fenced it off to stop them destroying it. Chocolate and vanilla lilies are flowering. The root tubers of the lilies were eaten roasted or raw in some areas of Australia. Ladies tresses is flowering. Frogs are active and calling after rain from storms including Peron’s tree frog, Plains froglet, Ornate burrowing frog and Stony-creek frog. The threatened Border thick-tailed gecko is found at Boorabee and is one of many threatened species that find sanctuary here.



Acknowledgement of Country

“The Willows and Boorabee IPA has been managed by the traditional custodians The Ngoorabul people for over 30 years incorporating traditional fire management practices in their management of country. We work with the environment as our ancestors have done for generations to protect and sustain the natural balance as much as possible. We continue to be amazed at the diversity that our IPA offers.” Karen Potter

Ngarabul and Yugambul Language

The Aboriginal language words included in this calendar are from Ngarabul (also known as Ngoorabul) and Yugambul Country, including the Narul dialect of Tenterfield. These places are located on the New England Tablelands of New South Wales.


The Ngoorabul Nation and Michelle McKemey


Kerry Faires, Karen Potter, Margaret Patterson, Debra Cutmore, Trevor Potter, Valerie Kirk, John Kirk, Laura Speedy, Kerry Faires, Max Kirk, Maria and Keith Barnes, Steven (Jimmy) Daly, Warren (Dale) Byrne, Jaydyn Potter, Rick Potter and Harry White.

For More Information

Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council

181 Lang Street Glen Innes NSW 2370. Tel: 02 6732 1150


Michelle McKemey

Melaleuca Enterprises Environmental Consultancy Services

‘Willow Park’, 216 Willow Park Rd, Guyra NSW 2365. Email: