Homepage and main map - Indigenous Weather Knowledge
Climate, Weather and Culture
A culture in which all things past and present are interrelated
Introduction A precious heritage Culture and beliefs Indigenous seasonal descriptions


Culture, beliefs and environmental knowledge

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge is passed from generation to generation by linking information with language, culture, law, community stories and creation beliefs. These stories are commonly referred to as Dreamtime stories and influence many aspects of life, including social interactions within communities or with people of other regions and language groups, foods one may or may not eat and areas in which one may live or hunt. Dreamtime stories often contain vital information on geography, meteorology and biology.

Information is passed through storytelling, songs and dances, art and ceremony. Not all knowledge is readily available and when seeking to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities it is essential to respect unique differences in stories from diverse regions and cultures.

The Rainbow Serpent

The Rainbow Serpent is a common theme in creation stories across Australia. Different regions have different explanations as to how the earth came to be, and some communities do not tell of the Rainbow Serpent but may have another similar deity or being of power. Others talk about the Rainbow Serpent in a different way, as one who lives in sacred waterways and can provide healing methods to community doctors, priests or spiritual healers.

The stories and depictions of the Rainbow Serpent vary according to communities with the earliest known images found in 6000-year-old rock art. In many stories the Rainbow Serpent travels on the land leaving grooves and crevices that later fill with water to form rivers and lakes. The Rainbow Serpent is linked with water, being the lifeblood of the country.  


Tagai of the Torres Strait

Where Aboriginal Australians of the mainland have dreaming stories, people of the Torres Strait have their own legends and beliefs that pass knowledge of the weather, society and laws from generation to generation. 

Torres Strait Islanders live in constant contact with the ocean as a source of food and as a way to connect with other communities. Having reliable methods of navigation and intimate knowledge of changing weather conditions has always been vital in fishing and boating. The stars allowed for navigation at night and Torres Strait Islander stories reflect this close connection. The Torres Strait people tell of a great sea hero, Tagai, who is visible as a vast constellation in the sky.