We have our eye on the same destination – a sustainable future where Indigenous people are recognised for their wisdom and honoured for their culture – there is no problem taking a different path to reach that place.Kirstie Parker, Yuwallarai woman and CEO of National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar that I stand on here today and honour the Elders, past and present.
In Australia, our Bureau of Meteorology don’t use the equinoxes to determine the change of the seasons, rather, it’s the first of the month.
So as of last Friday, the first of March, it is officially Autumn. Hurray, Summer is over, right?
A few years ago, I was in New York City for the Fall (Autumn). For the first time in my life, noticed leaves piling up and a real change in colour of the foliage as we walked around Central Park.
Autumn in my part of the world, isn’t too much of a big deal. Our native trees are largely evergreen, with native deciduous trees being the exception. So we simply don’t see that dramatic colour change or go crazy for pumpkin spiced everything.
I live in Perth, Western Australia, which is widely acknowledged as having a Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers, with cool wet winters. But, as I have since learned, my climate is much more nuanced than that.
It wasn’t until my kids went to school, that I discovered that the historical and cultural significance of the land that I live on, and it has been fascinating and
Nyoongar people have traditionally hunted and gathered food according to six seasons called Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba, Kambarang and Birak.
These seasons are of course, not dictated by calendar date or moon cycle, rather, the Nyoongar people read their surrounding environment and weather patterns to determine the onset of the seasons.
Currently, we are enjoying fine Bunuru weather! The Nyoongar recognise it as the hottest part of the year, with low rainfall and warm easterly winds with a cool sea breeze in the afternoon.
Bunuru is also known as second summer. Traditionally, Nyoongar would move to the coast and estuaries for fishing.
Bunuru time sees the white flowering gums in full bloom, including Jarrah, Marri and Ghost Gums.
It is the season of
Djeran marks the start of the cooler weather. The nights are cooler and dew forms in the morning. Fishing
The winds swing from the east further south, bringing light southeast to southwest breezes. It is ant season! Not uncommon (even in urban areas) to see flying ants emerge.
Dejeran is the season of adulthood. Typically, this season falls over April and May.
Makuru is when the cold fronts increase in intensity and frequency with gales and storms. Traditionally, Makuru was the time to move inland, further from the coast as the winds turned to the west and south bringing the cold weather and storms.
The rains replenish inland water sources and the waterways and catchments started to fill, people moved about with relative ease and the food sources changed from
The animals were more than just food but also provided ‘
Makuru is also a time for a lot of animals to be pairing up in preparation for breeding in the coming season. The Black Swan or ‘Mali’ arrive at the lakes and rivers as they prepare to nest and breed.
Makuru is the season of fertility. Typically, this season falls over June and July.
Dijilba is the coldest part of the year, although the rains are already starting to diminish in intensity and frequency. Roots were collected and possums, emu and kangaroo continue to be hunted.
As the days start to warm up, the first of the newborns emerge with their parents providing them food, protecting their family units. Dijilba is also the start of swooping season!
As the temperatures rise, the flower spikes of the Balgas (Grass Trees) emerge and it is the beginning of wildflower season, when the landscape appears carpeted with colourful flowers!
Djilba is the season of conception and also known as “first spring”. Typically, this season falls over August and September.
Kambarang marks the start of the
Kambarang is the time you may encounter reptiles as they wake from their hibernation and go in search of food and warmth.
Koolbardies (Magpies) are still likely to be on high alert, protecting their nests and their babies.
Kambarang is the season of birth and the height of the wildflower season. Nyoongar people would begin to move towards the coast where frogs, tortoises and freshwater crayfish were hunted.
Typically, Kambarang falls from October to November.
No doubt about it, Birak is hot and dry, also known as first summer.
Nyoongar people would burn scrubland in small, mosaic style sections, to flush out animals to hunt, aid in seed germination and to manage the fire fuel load, preventing large-scale, catastrophic bushfires.
The afternoons are cooled by the sea breezes that abound from the southwest.
Reptiles are shed their old skins and are more active in the warmer weather.
With rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall, tadpoles complete their transformation into frogs.
Birak is the season of the newborns, and typically falls from December through to January.
A New Seasons Perspective
So now I understand why my Mediterranean climate just didn’t really fit.
So even though it is technically Autumn, and I would otherwise be sowing my autumn crops according to the instructions on my seed packets. Yet thanks to Nyoongar
Plus, now I know our “summer” is a good third longer than your typical mediteranean climate.
I’m going to assume you live in an area that has an indigenous people and ask, have you ever investigated your local indigenous seasons? Or do you find spring, summer, autumn and winter are a good fit for your climate?
*Nyoongar recognise several spellings of their name including, Nyungar, Noongar, Noongah, Nyoongah, Nyungah, Nyugah, Yunga.