If you are like most people, you’ll be checking on the weather you can expect to experience when visiting Sydney and taking a walking tour. Climate change is responsible for more changeable and volatile weather in Sydney and like any city of over 5 million people, it creates its own microclimate. Dharuga have experienced changing climate patterns for tens of thousands of years and unlike the western world, record their seasons according to experience of country rather than day’s weeks or months. Seasons are fluid. They are what they are, for as little or long a time as the conditions apply. Some years shorter seasons, sometimes longer.
Indigenous people also have a longer-term understanding of weather patterns. Aunty Fran Bodkin’s Bidiagal clan has two other cycles that run considerably longer than the yearly cycle, the Mudong, or life cycle which covers about 11 or 12 years, and the Garuwanga, or Dreaming, which is a cycle of about 12,000 to 20,000 years. They have an oral tradition that is thousands of years old, and have passed down dreaming stories that describe major climatic changes, such as the ending of the last ice age.
When joining me on a walking tour, look to experience what season it is.
The time of the Burran (Kangaroo) is Gadalung Marool—hot and dry, and it could be any time from December to February
Some days are warm and others very hot. Some days wet, others dry and others hot with an afternoon thunder storm. Male kangaroos become quite aggressive in this season and he Dharuga are forbidden to eat them or other animals because hunting occurs in the morning and eating at night and the heat might cause food poisoning if the meat rots. It’s also bush fire season, a time when the lighting of fire, except well away from the bush and on a bed of sand is forbidden by the D’haramuoy or Keeper of the Flame. This is signalled by the flowering of the Weetjellan (Wattle). It also signals that there will be violent storms and heavy rain, so camping near creeks and rivers is not recommended.
The time of the Marrai’gang (Quoll), Bana’murrai’yung – wet becoming cool and it could be any time between late February and June.
This is the time of the year when the cries of the Marrai’gang (Quoll) seeking his mate used to be heard through the forests and woodlands, Unfortunately, the spotted tail or tiger quoll, is extinct in the Sydney region. The small Tasmanian-devil-like marsupial would growl and screech in the night to attract a mate. It’s also the time when the Lilly Pilly fruits ripen. These miniature apple shaped red fruits are prized by Dharuga, animals, birds and bats but unfortunately the last two can make a hell of a mess if they poo on your courtyard or car.
It’s also the time when the Dharuga would mend or add skins to their cloaks. Women wore possum skin cloaks, with the leather decorated with symbolic designs. Additional skins would add to the childens clokes as they grew.
Men primarily wore kangaroo skin cloaks, particularly after the achieved manhood and were allowed to hunt kangaroo.
This is the time they would look to move to their winter camps closer to the coast.
The time of Burrugin (Echidna), Tugarah Tuli—cold, frosty, short days and it could be any time between May, June or July
This is the time of the year when the echidna mates and when the delicate white blooms of the Burringoa or gum tree flower. You would need to find some extensive bushland to witness long lines of male echidnas following a female and hoping to mate. It’s also when the native birds begin nesting, and that includes noisy minors and magpies who are the most aggressive in defending their nests. The most common bird you will see however is the very colourful Rainbow Lorikeet. Absent from the city for over a century, it has returned as more and more native trees have been planted in the city.
It is also time for the Dharuga to collect the nectar of certain plants for the ceremonies which will begin to take place during the next season. It is also a warning to them, not to eat shellfish again until the Boo’kerrikin blooms.
The time of Wiritjiribin (Lyrebird), Tugarah Gunya’marri—cold and windy, pretty well always August.
Again, you’ll need to find some bushland, or even the backyards of the residents of Wahroonga or Turramurra where the lyrebirds’ calls ring out through the bushland as he builds his dancing mounds to attract his potential mates. It is the time of the flowering of the bright golden Marrai’uo (wattle tree) which is a sign that the fish are running in the rivers. If you suffer sinusitis, now is the worst time. With luck, there is also gentle spring rain.
Time of Ngoonungi (Flying Fox), Murrai’yunggory—cool, getting warmer, September-October
This is the time of the gathering of the flying foxes. There are still 19 flying fox camps in Sydney, and they swirl over the Sydney area in a wonderful, sky-dancing display just after sunset, before setting off for the night-time feeding grounds, particularly wherever there are Moreton Bay or Port Jackson Fig trees. It is also a very important ceremonial time for the Dharuga, and begins with the appearance of the splashes of the bright red Miwa Gawaian (Waratah) in the bushland.
The Gymea Lily comes into full bloom at the same time as the Waratah and when the flowers are starting to dry up, it is time for the Dharuga to make their way up onto the cliffs, to sing the whales home from their migration.
The time of Parra’dowee (Eel), Goray’murrai—Warm and wet, November-December
This season begins when the whales have finished their migration and the Great Eel Spirit calls his children to him. They are ready to mate, and make their way down the rivers and creeks to the ocean. It is the time of the blooming of the Kai’arrewan (Coastal wattle) which announces the arrival of fish in the bays and estuaries. This used to be the time that the Dharuga would go prawning on moonless nights. It’s also the season for afternoon storms and flooding is common so don’t camp near rivers, carry an umbrella and remember to put your car windows up even on the driest, brightest sunny days.