13 April 2023
“The land is the mother, and we are of the land; we do not own the land rather the land owns us. The land is our food, our culture, our spirit, and our identity.” – Dennis Foley, a Gai-mariagal and Wiradjuri man, and Fulbright scholar.
Connection to Country and land in First Nations cultures is deeper than the traditional western understanding of the environment. Country encompasses an interdependent relationship between a First Nations person and their ancestral lands, waters, and sky. This relationship defines culture and identity but also the reciprocal relationship between First Nations people the environment, ecology and cultural knowledge.
Over thousands of years, Aboriginal peoples acquired knowledge to co-exist with the environment, observing weather patterns and changes in climate back to the Ice Age. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and groups use seasonal calendars to anticipate the coming of seasonal food sources, breeding seasons and when plants are ready to harvest. Preserving these historic region-specific ecological knowledge bases could help us better manage the Australian environment, climate and preserve our water resources, forests, plants, and animals in future.
Each First Nation group not only has their own distinct culture and language, but they also have unique expressions of the seasonal knowledge. This can include, the number of seasons recognised in an annual cycle, the length of each season, and how they are locally defined and understood.
Australia’s climate varies greatly across the country and the local Indigenous understanding of the seasons defines the people’s role within the environment. The flowering and fruiting times of important food and medicinal plants, the timing of animal breeding and insect life cycles, the movement of birds to inland rivers and waterways, and annual whale migrations along the coast.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australia’s First Scientists, have always held a deep understanding of the seasons, and of how to tell when seasons are changing. Recording this knowledge provides a powerful tool for Indigenous knowledge holders to demonstrate and communicate their connection to use and management of Country.
To learn more about the different seasonal calendars across Australia follow the link:http://www.bom.gov.au/iwk/index.shtml