This Sunday is the 1st of June, which marks the start of winter in the southern hemisphere.
But what exactly is winter in Australia?
Well what can we say, from June to August the days are a bit shorter and the temperatures tend to be cooler than the other months of the year. It’s hard to be more specific than that when you have a whole continent to speak for.
Just this week I was up in Cape York where it was feeling decidedly un-wintery (to me anyway). What the locals up there will tell you is that a major seasonal change this time of year is dryer weather—the river levels are dropping as a result, the billabongs are forming, there’s a flourish of life before things dry out completely. We wouldn’t have been able to complete this creek crossing just a few weeks ago:
My friends in Canberra have a different story to tell about what they’re going through this time of year.
If you think about the wildly different conditions you’ll find around Australia during these months it becomes clear that the Gregorian calendar is a pretty blunt instrument in determining seasonal conditions.
So, in the spirit of National Reconciliation Week this week, we thought we’d look at some more specific seasonal information from some of the oldest knowledge systems on the planet—which of course happen to be right here in Australia.
As part of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) program, we worked with six Indigenous language groups across the Top End to develop a series of seasonal calendars specific to the regions where those groups live—the Gooniyandi and Walmajarri from the Fitzroy River area in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Ngan’gi, MalakMalak and Wagiman from the Daly River region in the Northern Territory, and the Gulumoerrgin/Larrakia from the Darwin region.
As June approaches, people on Larrakia Country will be on the lookout for flowers on the Woollybutt and Stringybark eucalypt trees because that marks the start of Dinidjanggama (Heavy Dew Time). Native bees use the nectar from those flowers to make Dadbinggwa (sugarbag honey), a delicious snack.
On Ngan’gi Country the electrical ‘knock-em down’ storms will flatten the speargrass and it will be a good time for catfish. Meanwhile, the Gooniyandi language group will be on the lookout for Jarloomboo (red dragonflies), which tell them the Galwinyi (sawfish) are fat and ready to eat.
Our friends over at the Bureau of Meteorology have also been interested in recording Indigenous weather knowledge.
So, if you’re feeling a little apprehensive about the coming ‘winter’, the Indigenous seasonal knowledge for your area might turn up a silver lining.