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


Introduction to Climate Culture

The Aboriginal View

The Aboriginal people have been living in Australia for at least 50,000 years and during this time have developed a unique method of living which has enabled survival to be maintained in sometimes incredibly adverse conditions.

A culture was developed in which all things past and present are interrelated, including the weather, landscape and previous generations, together with the plant and animal kingdoms.

All these are connected as a continuum in which everything is placed in a proper order and has distinct meaning and relevance.

Climate and weather are vital parts of this continuum, and are largely controlled by supernatural forces which manifest themselves through the behaviour of the surrounding natural world.

Surviving the Ice Age

During the time-span of Aboriginal settlement in Australia, there have been great changes in the climate of the continent.

The main weather event of this era consisted of an ice age which arrived about 20,000 years ago and lasted for some 5,000 years, during which time the average temperatures fell by some 10 degrees, rainfall decreased, and cold, dry winds blew across the land.

What was previously a place of plenty, with ample water supplies and bountiful game, became a stark and inhospitable countryside which threatened the very survival of the Aboriginal people. It has been suggested that up to 80% of the entire population may have perished during this extended period of cold and dry weather.

However, pockets of people were able to survive by retreating to parts of the Pilbara and Kimberley in Western Australia, Kakadu and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, as well as the southeast parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Then, about 14,000 years ago, the temperatures again began to rise and plant and animal populations returned to the levels of earlier days, allowing the Aboriginal people to once again extend their area of influence across much of the continent.

These fluctuating temperatures also produced large variations in sea levels, which in turn had far reaching consequences for the Aboriginal population.

At one stage, during the Ice Age, sea levels were some 100 metres below their present level, and what is now mainland Australia was connected to modern New Guinea and Tasmania.

With the sea levels rising again, these land masses separated, producing perhaps the most profound effect which was the isolation of the Tasmanian Aboriginals from their mainland relatives.

This, in turn, resulted in the development of a somewhat different culture which remained intact for many centuries thereafter.

"The Bibbulum people of the southwest Western Australia talk of a far off time when it was not as warm and congenial as it is today. Stories of this time begin with "In the nyitting times..." which translated means "In the icy cold times of long, long ago....".