Bringing Gove Together

The Weather Patterns of NE Arnhemland - A Yolngu Expanation

NE Arnhemland Weather – An Explanation

The peoples of the world generally recognise four seasons of the year – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
Here in the top-end of Australia we have reduced this concept to two seasons per year – the “Wet” season and the “Dry” season.

The Aboriginal (Yolngu) people of Northeast Arnhemland, however, generally recognise six major seasons in the yearly cycle of natural events.
Each season is heralded by distinct changes in fauna activity, floral changes and climatic conditions; all interwoven into a view of the natural environment as a total integrated system of which the Yolngu people are merely a part.

This article therefore explains the weather features and natural events corresponding to the calendar months of the year and by which we can recognise and define each of these seasons.

October-November is known as Dhuludur’ : the “build-up” season of threatening rain clouds, oppressive heat, high humidity, but no actual rainfall.
The sea is flat and the water is clear.
The winds come from several directions – NW, NE, SW, & SE - each blowing at different times, often within the same day.
We Balanda call this season the “Silly Season” or the “Suicide Season”.
Our tempers easily fray, we do silly things, our stress levels rise, life is almost unbearable. We pray for cooling rain to break the oppressive heat. The barramundi move back into the creeks and mangroves to breed. Good fishing is to be had.

December-January is known as Barra’mirri : the NW winds predominate bringing the monsoon rains – the wet season sets in, with heavy rains and thunder storms, virtually every day.
Plants burst into rapid growth.
The green grasses grow to meters high.
The waterholes fill and the creeks and rivers rise to flood levels.
Birds and animals are in abundance.
The mosquitoes swarm in plague numbers.
“The Track” out to Katherine is closed.

February-March is known as Mayaltha : the days of rain become less and less and the sun comes out to dry the land.
Annoying flies and biting sandflies are everywhere.
The plants start to flower, and the numbers of birdlife become prolific.

March-April is known as Midawarr : This is the season of an abundance of food and the rains cease.
The winds swing around from the east and the weather becomes cooler.
This is harvest time.
Again, good fishing is to be had with the barramundi in the mangroves and other fish species in the shallow waters near the shore.

May-June-July is known as Dharratharramirri : The predominate winds are from the South East and come in strong gusts which flatten the tall grasses which grew tall with the previous rains.
This season is referred to as the ‘knock-em-down’.
With the lack of rain, the vegetation dries out and small fires are lit by the Yolngu to flush out the animals to be hunted and speared for food, plus to help regenerate the plants for regrowth.
We Balanda (white people) refer to this time of year as “Granny Season” – relatives from ‘down south’ escape the southern winter cold to drop in for an extended visit.

August-September-October is known as Rrarrandharr : This is the true ‘dry’ season. Days are warm and sunny, nights are cool and clear.
No rain.
Winds are from the ESE, SE & SSE.
Larger bushfires are started by the Yolngu, again for hunting purposes but also to clear and clean the buildup of undergrowth associated with the previous wet season.
Most fish species are fat and hungry and the barramundi move from the freshwater areas into the saltwater – the best time to throw in a line.
The Mango trees are fruiting.
When the mangoes are nearly finished, the weather changes and the thunder begins – the next season of Dhuludur’ is about to begin and the cycle starts over again.

Written by: Justin Willmett
With acknowledgement to Stephen Davis (author of: “The Hunter for all Seasons”)
- East Arnhem Collection at Nhulunbuy Community Library.