|Kangaroo enjoying the shade and very probably the much too long grass
This week there have been kangaroos in the front garden and parrots among the roses. Bush creatures are coming down for moisture, food and shade. In the bush, many more birds can be heard and seen taking advantage of all those burgeoning seed heads and the weather has become very hot and dry with several days above 35oC. We’ve also had the first bush fire alerts and warnings that this year – climate change deniers please note, the chance of catastrophic fires is particularly high.
|Whiskers the resident Bandicoot stealing the food we left out for a stray chicken
There was such an abrupt shift in both the weather and the vegetation this week, that I wondered if it had meaning in the Aboriginal Calendar of Seasons. I had read that both the Tasmanian Aborigines and those of the Top End (Darwin, Kakadu) had six different seasons, even though Europeans consider the north to have only two. Here in the south of Western Australia, the Nyoongar* people also note six and it looks like the season of Kambarang (hot and dry and the season of birth) is upon us.
Just like European seasons, these are based on observed changes in nature, but unlike European seasons they depend less on calendar dates than on actual changes in the environment, such as the flowering of a particular species, which signal a shift in the movement of Aboriginal people and a change in activities. For example, at this time of year the Nyoongar people traditionally migrated to the coast to take frogs and turtles or begin burning off to flush out game which they did before the ground dried out too much, making the risk of large wild fires less likely. Many native species do require fire for germination and regeneration and the resulting new shoots provide food for game. Marissa Verma, the speaker in the above video, describes the the necessity of moving to other locations (nomadism) as, “Nature’s way of restocking the shelves,” just as our supermarkets do at night.
|Pods and seed heads are the order of the day
Late comers to Australia i.e. since 1788, are only beginning to appreciate some of the traditional wisdom of the Aborigines, particularly with respect to fire regimes, land management practices and the idea that humans belong to the land, not the other way around. Fortunately, several efforts are now underway to preserve indigenous knowledge.
|Xanthorrhorea provided many useful substances for Aborigines including a type of glue for spears
When white people came to Australia, over three hundred different languages were spoken by the various tribal groups. Though many of them have been lost, the Nyoongar people of this region have created their own Nyoongarpaedia and just this month, the NSW government has legislated for the protection of Aboriginal languages.
|There are very few flowers now and most of these are white
Aspects of Aboriginal culture are also being taught in schools, and far more respect is being accorded to Aboriginal visual artists, dancers, sportspersons, storytellers and musicians. More importantly, increasingly it is Aboriginal people themselves who are doing the teaching, the recording, and conducting business and tourism ventures such as Ecotours and introducing Europeans to things like Bush Tucker, the different notions of spirituality represented by the Dreamtime and their unique ways of looking at and treating the land.
|Tall Everlasting about 1 metre
While this may not immediately bring about change in attitudes towards Aboriginal people nor immediately overcome generations of neglect, abuse and disadvantage, it is certainly a step in the right direction and may help to restore a sense of pride in a unique and ancient culture – possibly the oldest living culture in the world. For more on the origins of the Aboriginal people based on the latest palaeontological and genetic research, this You Tube video provides interesting background, though clearly the speaker is American.
|A new small white flower with small everlastings
* There are several spellings of Nyoongar/ Noogar etc - This is because Aboriginal languages were an oral tradition and thus there is no fixed way of writing a word