The Six Seasons of Wadandi Boodja

The Wadandi guide to living in harmony with the land and environment.

The people of Wadandi Boodja (Saltwater People’s Country) are the traditional owners of the South West of Western Australia and follow an ancestral six season calendar which guides them to live in harmony with the land and environment.

The seasonal changes can be long or short and are represented not by dates in a calendar, but by the changes occurring in nature – Such as the flowering of different plants, the hibernation of reptiles, and plant and animal fertility cycles.

“This six season calendar is extremely important to the Wadandi people, as it is a guide to what nature is doing at every stage of the year, as well as understanding respect for the land in relation to plant and animal fertility cycles and land and animal preservation” says Iszaac Webb, a Wadandi Cultural Custodian and Chairperson from the Undalup Association.

Conservationists by nature, these six bonars (seasons) tell the Wadandi people which animal and plant resources are plentiful at different times, and they recognise when it is time to harvest according to signs from the land. By following natures gentle guidance and only taking what is needed when it is abundant and in season, the natural resources they relied on for survival were not depleted and would be again available the following year.

The following is an overview of the six seasons of the Noongar calendar: Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba and Kambarang.

Smiths Beach - Photo Elements Margaret River

BIRAK

December – January

Birak is characterised by arid easterly or north easterly winds in the mornings and a coastal sea breeze in the afternoon. The Wanajet (peppy flowers) have fallen, letting us know the rains are easing up. The sun shines hotter and the days are longer. With calmer, warmer waters, the larger djiljit (fish) species come closer. Groper, abalone, and crab are plentiful in the seas. The Kaarak (red tailed cockatoos) are chewing away, dropping marri maada (honky nuts) from the trees.

BUNURU

February – March

The hottest of the six seasons, Bunuru is also known as Season of Adolescence. Bringing with it long days and short nights, it is when trees are bearing fruit and considered the ‘second summer’. Traditionally (and still today) this is an ideal time to be living and fishing on the river or by the coast, and with freshwater food and seafood plentiful at this time it made up a major part of the Wadandi people’s diet.

Cattle Grazing at Sunset

DJERAN

April – May

Djeran signifies the start of cooler weather with dewy mornings and the falling of leaves on deciduous trees, and is known as Season of Adulthood. It is noted for south westerly winds, an abundance of native flowers in bloom, and trees in fruit. Native fruits like zamia, palm nuts and tubers are collected at this time. The burning season continues, as does fishing in lakes, dams and estuaries – Ngari (salmon) in particular are plentiful.

MAKURU

June – July

The coldest and wettest time of the year, known as Fertility Season. Makuru brings the first heavy rains, and storms occur more frequently as Boodja (Country) cools down. Many local Noongar people moved to inland areas for shelter to escape the storms coming off the Southern Ocean. With the cold coastal winds prevailing, the Yonga Booka (kangaroo skin cloak) was turned inside out so that the fur was against the skin, while the outside was was oiled to provide waterproof protection against the rain. This time of year is good for hunting, in particular for yongka (kangaroo), wetj (emu), kaarda (goanna), koomal (possum) and kwenda (bandicoot).

Margaret River Rivermouth Photo Credit Elements Margaret River

DJILBA

August – September

As the days start to warm up, explosions of wildflowers bloom in the South West over Djilba. Yonga Marra (Kangaroo Paw) begins to flower yellow blossoms, and Koola (Emu Plum) starts to fruit. It is also a great time to try and catch some djildjit (fish).

This is a transitional time of year with some cold and clear days mixed with rainy, windy and occasional sunny days. The controlled burning from previous seasons brings lush growth of green grasses which attracts animals. The kyooya (frog) can be heard from the wetlands.

Djilba is also known as Season of Conception.

KAMBARANG

October – November

Kambarang brings longer and warmer days, and is also known as Season of Birth when we start to see an abundant explosion of colours, flowers and life all around us. The djet (flowers) are in full bloom, and plants used for mereny (food), medicine, crafts, tools, kaal (fire), and ceremonies are collected.

Iszaac Webb says that as the rain eases, Boodja (country) begins to warm. “This can be seen as the clouds open up and the ngark (sun) begins bringing to life all the djet of the land.”

The Mooja or ‘Australian Christmas Tree’ is one of the more eye-catching displays, and the bright orangey yellow flowers announce that the temperature is set to climb. Snakes begin to awaken from their hibernation, and set out in search of food while the warmth of the sun is on hand to give them more energy.

Kangaroo and Wildflowers Credit Sean Blocksidge