TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

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Indigenous seasonal understanding in monsoon Australia: examples from the Northern Territory and Western Australia

6th CAWCR workshop


TitleIndigenous seasonal understanding in monsoon Australia: examples from the Northern Territory and Western Australia
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWoodward, E
Conference Name6th Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research Workshop
Date Published11/2012
PublisherAustralian Bureau of Meterology, CSIRO
Conference LocationMelbourne
Keywordsclimate, Indigenous ecological knowledge, seasonal calendar, weather

Aboriginal peoples’ knowledge of their environment is frequently rich, detailed and highly interconnected. In northern Australia, Indigenous understanding of the monsoon environment comprises many scales of understanding, where the meteorological, hydrological, biological and spiritual intertwine at multiple layers to create a knowledge system both unique and complementary to a western-science perspective.

This paper draws on the findings of four years work with six Aboriginal language groups to document Indigenous seasonal knowledge from across tropical Western Australia and the Northern Territory within a water resource planning context (see Jackson et al. 2011; Woodward et al. 2012). Some of the information was documented for the first time, and each set of observations has been captured in an Indigenous seasonal calendar. Information presented in the calendars includes the Indigenous seasons (ranging from 4 to 13 annual seasons), the plants and animals hunted and gathered through the annual cycle,  their specific uses and techniques for collection and preparation, and the signs or ecological and meteorological indicators that inform resource use behaviour.

Specifically, the paper focuses on the knowledge of two language groups; the Gooniyandi from the Fitzroy River area in the Kimberley region of WA and the Ngan’gi from the Daly River region in the NT, to reveal the complexity and diversity of Indigenous seasonal knowledge from the Australian monsoon region.