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Top End Seasonal Calendar

Gwion


Each month we bring you scenes and description from western Arnhem Land or other parts of the Top End - showing the country, bush food, and other aspects of Aboriginal life. On this page you can visit:

The main photographs and text are by Wayne Miles, an outstanding photographer from Darwin.

March - End of the Rainmaking Season

At this time of year the wetlands and waterways of the tropical woodlands and forests remain flooded. Swarms of drasgonflies and aquatic insects skim the glassy surfaces, the air is heavily scented by curing native grasses and blossoming plants. These all signal that the transition to the start of the early dry season is beginning.

All animals in the country of the Gagadju clans have a story, but none more so than "ginga" the saltwater crocodile. His behaviour and dangers are told in Dreaming stories, in paintings on bark and in songs. During March, crocodiles fiercely guard hidden nests where their clutches of eggs now incubate. If disturbed, they react violently - and all Aboriginal people treat them with great care and respect for the danger they pose.

April - Harvest Time in the Kakadu Wetlands

On the floodplains of the South Alligator River in Kakadu National Park the water levels are dropping fast. Magpie Geese in their hundreds of thousands are busy leaving their nests and feeding on wild rice and other foods. Everywhere you look green growth is abundant.

Wetlands of Kakadu National Park
Wetlands of the South Alligator River floodplain

In the shallows, amongst spiked rushes and buoyant reeds, stately Brolgas march backwards and forwards, necks bent back, bills pointed skyward, trumpeting a call that announces the beginning of their breeding season. To the Aboriginal peoples of the region, this also says that the Magpie Geese will soon be ready for harvest.

Magpie goose
Magpie goose
Brolga
Brolga

For the Aboriginal people of this region, "Bininj" as they call themselves, this is traditionally a time for celebration, when the great "cheeky" and "long" yams are harvested. Yams are similar in taste to sweet potatoes. In the past, the eggs of Magpie Geese were a staple part of the Aboriginal diet, and they were a prized food source collected in their thousands. Such harvesting and bush management are no longer necessary for survival but are still practised today as part of the living culture of the people.

Text copyright Wayne Miles 1999

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