Homepage and main map - Indigenous Weather Knowledge
Climate, Weather and Aboriginal Culture
A culture in which all things past and present are interrelated
Introduction A Precious Heritage The Rainbow Serpent Indigenous Seasonal Descriptions


A Precious Heritage

In any study of Aboriginal meteorology, what emerges early is that much of the knowledge from south and east Australia has all but vanished because of the effect of European arrival and settlement in the late 18th century.

Happily, however, a significant amount of the weather culture of the Aboriginals of central and northern Australia has survived, and this provides us with a path into the way indigenous Australians view the weather and climate of Australia.

This path largely consists of an intimate knowledge of plant and animal cycles, and contains details of the intricate connections between these, which the Aboriginal people have observed over thousands of years and passed down from generation to generation.

This represents a precious and irreplaceable heritage, the value of which is being increasingly recognised, considered and appreciated by all Australians.

Some of this knowledge is of a purely observational type which records how various plants and animals react to the weather around them at the time.

But even more intriguing are other types of observations which are linked to seasonal expectations, some examples of which are:

  1. Flying foxes move from the inland bush to the rivers during the dry season and nest in the pandanus palm trees. When this happens the onset of rains is imminent. (Yarralin area of the Northern Territory)
  2. In the dry season, the migratory return of the brolga means that the river catfish will again become active, which in turn means that the river will soon fill with the return of the rains. (Yarralin area of the Northern Territory)
  3. White breasted wood swallows are only found together with mudlarks for two short periods each year. These occasions signal the beginnings of the wet and dry seasons. (Northeast Arnhem Land area)
  4. The flowering of the rough barked gum and the bunch spear grass is a sign that the winds will soon blow from the southeast and the Dry Season will arrive. (Kakadu area)
  5. The appearance of the plover is associated with the onset of rain over many areas of central Australia. (Southwest Simpson Desert area)

With example (4), a traditional scientific explanation could be that falling humidity associated with the beginning of the Dry Season triggers the flowering response noted. This illustrates the concept that plants and trees, when viewed by the educated eye, can be read in the much same way as the modern Automatic Weather Station, with their appearance a direct result of past, present and even future weather.

The other examples noted are far more indirect, and result from millennia of observations of the plant and animal kingdoms.

They reflect the deep Aboriginal philosophy that "all things are connected", and that subtle natural linkages are present which can reveal much about climate and weather.