Teacher background information
How Aboriginal seasons are determined
For hundreds of years, Europeans noted that the year could be broken down into 4 seasons, and many societies and cultures today still use these 4 seasons.
The ‘year’ is measured in a cycle of changing seasonal patterns. Each season has its own patterns of weather, plant growth and cycles of animal life and death. Understanding these patterns helps Aboriginal people to know the right times for activities such as hunting and gathering, burning and ceremonial life.
Importantly this knowledge lets Aboriginal people know that certain food supplies are becoming available. For example, in the Torres Strait when the wind begins to blow from the north-west, Islanders know that the turtles are mating and will soon lay eggs.
This intimate knowledge has been acquired over thousands of years by observing the environment, and through interpreting the knowledge accumulated through traditional stories and passed on in customary traditions.
A common representation of the Aboriginal knowledge of annual seasonal changes is a circular map that shows events in nature and their relationships sequentially organised.
In Australia some Aboriginal groups identified 7 or more distinct seasons over the year.