ANASTASIA ARASU & CAITLIN GROVES-MCCLEARY
Non-Indigenous people know the months of June and July as two-thirds of the season of winter.
However, the Noongar people, the traditional custodians of Southwest Western Australia, refer to this time of Year as Makuru.
Makuru runs roughly from June to July, but unlike the European season of winter, is not quantified by a set passage of time.
Len Collard from the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia says Makuru is the season of rain.
“When it rains that’s when [Makuru] officially starts and when it stops raining that’s when it officially stops,” Professor Collard says.
“Non-Noongar or Europeans like to quantify things and set dates but Noongars really run by … when the flowers start or the fish run or the rains start,” he says.
Professor Collard says Makuru is a migrational season, with many of the Noongar people moving “upwards towards the hills to get out of the colder weather nearer the swamps”.
The Noongar people recognise a six-season cycle, with each season lasting roughly six to eight weeks.
“Aborigines right around Australia understand that they have a six-season model,” Professor Collard says.
“If you’ve been here for 40 or 50 or 100 thousand years studying the weather patterns and … intellectualising life cycles and the universe you come to some conclusions.
“It’s only about 250 years ago [Europeans] brought something with [them] and said all shoes fit one foot or one system, without going to see.”
Professor Collard says that one day not too far away Australians will probably revert back to the original Noongar seasons, as it better suits the Australian climate.
“It’s highly probable that in the not too distant future Australians will go back to the oldest cultural knowledge to finding and describing what seasons are,” Professor Collard says.
“I guess conversely if you went to England to live tomorrow, would it be useful for us Noongars to be importing our six season cycle into the European four season cycle?”
The season after Makuru is Djilba, a transitional season between winter and spring symbolised by the rising green grass.
“Djilba starts to occur at the end of July and August and through to September,” Professor Collard says.
“In the Djilba what you’ll observe, with all the rain in Makaru, is the rise of green grass,” he says.
An array of native flora starts blooming and blossoming in Djilba, notably the Kangaroo Paw. Along with flowers there is also an increase in the wildlife that signifies the end of Makuru.
“At the end of July I want you to go out and have a look and welcome your readers to go out and have a look and start to observe…,” Professor Collard says.