The weather is a popular topic of conversation in Australia for rural and urban people alike. It influences what we can do, where we can go, what we wear, how we are feeling, the success of agricultural enterprises and the consumption of energy. The weather also has a profound effect on the functioning of ecosystems, particularly rivers, streams and lakes.

When European’s colonised Australia they described the seasons based on their experience in the northern hemisphere. Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring – four seasons of three months each, tied in with the cycle of deciduous forests and often snow. These seasons sort of work OK in southern Australia, especially with the planting of European trees and flowers in many cities and towns.

The sheer diversity of ecological zones in Australia however means that a rigid European seasonal calendar can’t be meaningfully applied to the entire country. In the northern monsoonal climate the four seasons have no relevance for example. The knowledge of weather developed by Indigenous Australians over tens of thousands of years is more suited to our continent. Their seasonal calendars, which are regionally based, have been used as a guide to what nature is doing at every stage of the year, as well as understanding respect for the land in relation to plant and animal fertility cycles and land and animal preservation. The Indigenous Weather Knowledge (IWK) site hosted by the Bureau of Meteorology  provides links to ten seasonal calendars across Australia as well as useful information on Indigenous climate, weather and culture. It gives us a more intricate and connected understanding of Australia’s climate and weather that we can well learn from.

Prepared for the Australian River Restoration Centre

By Jann Williams

Jann has a great blog ‘Fire up Water down‘ that I highly recommend as it covers the many and varied aspects of the elements – fire, water, earth, air and spirit/aether/void – and related subjects.