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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


A precious heritage

In any study of Aboriginal meteorology, what emerges early is that information and knowledge on the weather and environment has been recorded in a variety of forms, the dominant being the passing of information orally through storytelling and ceremony. This type of archiving is fragile as it is intrinsically linked to language, cultural practices and social values. During European colonisation knowledge was displaced through community relocation, restrictions and changes to traditional language and the introduction of the English language.

In remote locations of central and northern Australian communities, settlers had difficulty exploring and expanding control into many areas. This allowed culture, ceremony and language to thrive and gives access to vast amounts of Indigenous environmental and weather information.

This information consists of an intimate knowledge of plant and animal cycles and contains details of the intricate connections in the natural world. Communities all over Australia continue to propagate this information and have adapted to changes in language and cultural conditions.

This knowledge 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 and environment around them. But even more intriguing are other types of observations which are linked to seasonal expectations, some examples of which are:

  1. To the Yanyuwa people rolling coastal clouds indicate that flying foxes and certain bird species are about to start their seasonal migration.
  1. To the Wardaman people the appearance of march-flies in September or October indicate the end of the dry season.
  2. To the Walabunnba people when the mirrlarr (rain bird) calls out, it indicates that there will be a lot of rain.
  3. During the Djilba season in Nyoongar country, the flowers of the balgas (grass trees) emerge in preparation for the coming Kambarang season.
  4. The flowering of the boo'kerrikin (Acacia decurrens) is an indication for the D'harawal people, an end to the cold, windy weather, and the beginning of the gentle spring rains

With example (4), a meteorological 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 the same way as an automatic weather station, with their appearance a direct result of past, present and even future weather.

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

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