You already know spring, summer, autumn and winter in Australia. But did you know there are Indigenous seasonal calendars? They’re based on tens of thousands of years of observation and knowledge.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups from across Australia have partnered with us to document their own seasonal calendars.
Indigenous seasonal calendars
We've co-produced an ABC TV series on this work: Many Lands, Many Seasons. The three episodes – about 10 minutes each – showcase different Indigenous seasonal calendars.
Dr Emma Woodward, our Senior Research Scientist, was the Project Lead on this series.
“The seasonal calendars demonstrate the wealth of knowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia hold about the environment,” Emma said.
These beautiful calendars were created in partnership with senior Aboriginal knowledge holders.
Ziggi Busch is a Project Support Officer with our Office of Indigenous Engagement. She has worked to protect the calendars’ Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP).
“The seasonal calendars in Many Lands, Many Seasons represent unique, powerful knowledge systems, developed and maintained from generation to generation,” Ziggi said.
“It is important the ICIP embedded in these calendars is respected and protected.”
Many Lands, Many Seasons
Nauiyu, Daly River, in the Northern Territory
First up, we’re visiting Nauiyu (Daly River) in the top end of the Northern Territory. We learn how Ngan’gikurunggurr people mark the seasons. They do this by paying attention to the weather and to the changes in behaviour of animals and plants. There are 13 seasons in the Ngan'gi calendar.
“You’ve got to be aware of things around you. The seasons, the plants, which way the wind is blowing. Animals, trees that flower at a certain time, and people. Everyone matters. And without you being aware of all those things, you might not be as lucky in being able to catch whatever it is you’re going to be hunting that day.”
Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, Nauiyu Elder.
Fitzroy Valley, in Western Australia
Next, we’re visiting the Fitzroy Valley in Western Australia. Here, the mighty Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) winds through the town of Fitzroy Crossing. This town is located 400 kilometres inland from Broome. In this episode, we explore the three seasonal calendars of the Walmajarri, Bunuba and Gooniyandi peoples.
“Our scientists are our old people. We learn from them. They tell us what time to pick food and hunt, you know? Go fishing and go hunting... The flowers let us know when other animals or food is available.”
Marmingee Hand, Walmajarri Language teacher at Fitzroy Valley District High School.
Milikapiti on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory
The third episode focuses on the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory. About 80km north of Darwin, in the Arafura Sea, this series of islands are owned and managed by the Tiwi people.
Host Rulla Kelly-Mansell travels to Milikapiti to discover how the students mark the Tiwi seasons.
“Well, in the dry season the weather changes from wet to dry, then we know it is dry season. We see the flowers and the trees. Wurrungilaka has that flower, then we know it’s the time when the possum gets fat, also the carpet snake. Then we know it’s the time for collecting sugarbag, Yingwati. So, we collect bush honey. It is the season now Kimirrakinari, we burn off the land, then we go hunting on Country, from long time ago and still today.”
Pedro Wonaeamirri, Senior Cultural Advisor
Gunbalanya, in the Northern Territory
In the fourth episode Rulla heads to the Community of Gunbalanya in West Arnhem Land.
Gunbalanya is about 300 kilometres east of Darwin. And it's one of the closest towns to Kakadu National Park. Here, Rulla learns all about the Kunwinjku seasons calendar and gets stuck into some delicious bush tucker.
“We follow those seasons because we know exactly what to eat in quantities… following the food chain is important so we can eat our omega oils in our fish and our turtle and vitamins in our plums and yam… it’s important to us so our children can be healthy and our old people are healthy.”
Heleana Yarrngu, teacher at the Gunbalanya School.