Australia is a large continent prone to many and varied seasonal weather events such as floods, droughts, snow, rain, hail and heatwaves.

23 April 2019

For thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have gathered knowledge of these climate cycles and developed location and language-specific words to describe them.

On International Mother Earth Day during the International Year of Indigenous Languages we highlight a website that is capturing this important information.

The Indigenous Weather Knowledge website was launched in 2002 as a joint partnership between the Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and Monash University's Centre for Indigenous Studies.

The Bureau is working with different communities to gather valuable seasonal and environmental information to create Indigenous season maps. These provide a much more multi-dimensional overview of Australia's climate than the four-seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring.

This knowledge is intrinsically linked to language, cultural practices and social values. It also ties plant and animal behaviour to different weather patterns. For example:

  • For Yanyuwa peoples, rolling coastal clouds indicate that flying foxes and certain bird species are about to start their seasonal migration.
  • To the Wardaman peoples the appearance of march-flies heralds the end of the dry season.
  • Walabunnba peoples know that when the mirrlarr bird calls out there will be a lot of rain.
  • When the boo'kerrikin (Acacia decurrens) flowers it means an end to the cold, windy weather and the beginning of spring rains for the D'harawal peoples.

Find out more