The six Noongar seasons of South Western Australia

Green paddock with trees at sunset with a pink and orange sky

Bee Central works with properties throughout the Wheatbelt, a region encompassing approximately 150,000 square kilometers of land in southern Western Australia. So working in flow with the seasons and the land is essential for our trees and bees.

In the south-west region, Indigenous Australians (Noongar) are guided by six seasons which are distinct from other parts of Western Australia. Noongar people of the south-west use the six seasons to define the type of expected weather, track plant and animal growing cycles, identify the best hunting and gathering food sources for that time of year, and direct sustainable land (Boodja) management requirements.

Different Indigenous groups will have seasonal calendars that reflect what is happening in their local area; the seasons can be longer or shorter based on how things change in any given year. Therefore, they are not definitively bound by calendar dates. However, below you’ll find a guide to how these six seasons generally map over to European seasons and calendars, along with the Noongar indications of how you can recognise each season.

 

Noongar Six Seasons of the South-west

Birak

Season of the Young

December to January (Summer)

Features of Birak

Birak is dry and hot, sometimes called the first summer. The rains are lessening as the heat settles in with warm easterly winds during the day moderated by cooling sea breezes in the afternoon. The season of Birak used to be a time of burning scrub to encourage seed germination, new growth, and to help hunt ground-dwelling animals. You’ll also see young start to venture away from the safety of their parents and out into the world.

 

Bunuru

Season of Adolescence

February to March (Summer/Autumn)

Features of Bunuru

Bunuru is the hottest part of the year, sometimes called the second summer, and is known as a time of white flowers and many gums bloom. The low rainfall and hot easterly and northerly winds would encourage moving closer to coastal and riverside water sources for fishing and wetlands harvesting. Traditionally, this would mean a more significant contribution of fresh water and seafood to the diet during this season.

 

Djeran

Season of Adulthood

April to May (Autumn)

Features of Djeran

Chillier weather starts to return in Djeran. With south-westerly winds bringing cold nights and dewy mornings. Traditionally this was a time to repair housing ahead of the strong winds and rain of Makuru. Seeds and bulbs are collected for storage as red flowering plants bloom, providing sustenance for birds and small mammals. Kangaroos also become a significant food source as the Noongar could prepare their coats for use during the coming cooler seasons.

 

Makuru

Season of Fertility

June to July (Winter)

Features of Makuru

While Makuru is the coldest and wettest time of the year, with frequent storms driven by westerly winds. It also brings good hunting as more food is available to the Noongar who are moving further inland away from the coast. Fire use features during this season to drive out the larger game, assist in making tools, and for warmth during the long nights. During this time of purple and blue flowers, you’ll see wildlife start to seek out mates ahead of the breeding season.

 

Djilba

Season of Conception

August to September (Winter/Spring)

Features of Djilba

As the blue and purple flowers of Makaru make way for delicate whites and creams, this signals the start of Djilba. This season brings a mixture of wet and dry weather with clear nights and sunny warm days. The inland water sources are now replenished, signaling the return of animals to these areas, which provides opportunities for hunting and gathering in large family groups. You see a cacophony of color across the southwest from many flowering plants as the season progresses. Nesting behaviours of woodland birds protecting their nest are also more apparent, while snakes as lizards become a more significant food source as they venture out to seek what warmth they can.

 

Kambarang

Season of Birth

October to November (Spring)

Features of Kambarang

Rains decrease during Kambarang with longer and longer dry periods, yet flowers are still on display en masse. Warming weather frequently sees reptiles out, as will young bird families busily trying to feed hungry babies. Kambarang is a transformational time of year as the significantly warmer weather changes the landscape. Foods such as yams, fruit, and birds’ eggs are also abundant, while certain plants are collected for medicine and ceremony during this season.

 

References and further reading.

https://www.noongarculture.org.au

http://www.mooditjboodja.com.au

https://www.australiassouthwest.com/south-west-inspo/six-seasons-south-west

Available from the Wheatbelt NRM knowledge hub: 

www.wheatbeltnrm.org.au

Mooditj Boodja Calendars

Ballardong Noongar Waangkany (Dictionary)

Bureau of Meteorology Noongar Calendar: 

http://www.bom.gov.au/iwk/calendars/nyoongar.shtml

Kurongkurl Katitjin, Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research, Edith Cowan University: 

http://www.ecu.edu.au/centres/kurongkurl-katitjin/