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The Longest Living, Lost Culture

Marri Hills in WA - Photo DGW

Growing up in Marri and Jarrah hills of Perth, Western Australia, nature has been something that has always been a part of my life. I've always been drawn to it, whether I'm exploring the bush in the hills or surfing along the coast; nature has played a big role in shaping who I am today and it wasn't until I met with Yondee, that I figured out why.

A while back, Dogs Go Woof Productions was shooting a documentary with indigenous artist 'Yondee' (Shane Hansen). The scene was destined to be a part of another film, but unfortunately, due to the main character of the film pulling out, the film never eventuated. I was left with the remaining footage with Yondee and attempted to make it into its own short film, but because it was in the context of being a scene in another film, it just didn't make sense on its own. I just didn't have enough content to make it its own story, so we had to put the footage in archive.

Indigenous Artsist Yondee 'Shane Hansen' - Photo DGW

Yondee's Painting : Rain Man

It was a big blow. Not just because it was time spent shooting and editing, but because there was so much I had learned from spending time with Yondee and the knowledge I gained couldn't be shared in a film. After shooting, I realised that so much of our indigenous culture in Australia is unknown and it is something that I feel needs to be shared as it holds so much knowledge and wisdom that can really help people and could play a really important role in learning to live sustainably.

One of the things I soon learned from my time with Yondee was how connected and in tune the Noongar people were with the environment. Yondee saw everything as a part nature and unlike what I was taught, where nature is seen seperate and for the taking; he understood the purpose of everything and everything was a purpose for something else.

It was in that moment, that I realised that I had lost a fundamental understanding of my place in the world and so had much of the world.

Yondee explained how in Noongar culture, knowledge was passed down from ancestors through stories and was a way of guiding you in the right direction. Connection to the land was the most fundamental thing and this is what guided you, 'The Earth is 'Mother Earth's House', he explained, '...and when you're in her house, you need to respect it and respecting is giving back'.

He took me to one of the waterholes around the Swan River and explained how everything has a spirit; from the rocks to the wind, to the plants and all the animals and we were just another part of that. Standing under a Peppermint tree, the cool breeze rushed in, off the water and Yondee breathed in as if he summoned it in. He explained how the land is a living and breathing ecosystem; the trees inhaling and exhaling, the rivers running like veins, pulsing the heart of the land, everything was connected and in sequence. For me, it was like lifting the veil, but for Yondee it was second-nature; after all it is law in Noongar culture to look after it.

I realised, this was that feeling I felt when exploring the wilderness growing up. A feeling of peace, an untold connection; but forgotten. For centuries the world has gradually parted away from the fundamental thing that has allowed us to live, that has kept us alive and what gave us life in the first place; nature. Despite all our technology and studying of how the world works, we still face our biggest challenge of overcoming climate change and yet, Yondee believes this all can be solved through an understanding of nature. As Yondee says, "it is right there, right under our noses, we just have to open up".

Before all of this, this hunt for something more lead me to discovering Permaculture; which happens to be a way of reconnecting to nature in a modern world and the more I explore Permaculture, the more I understand how its ideology is a reflection of indigenous cultures. So, in honour to the traditional peoples of this land; the Noongar people, here is a small piece of knowledge I wish to pass on to you about the traditional seasons of the south west of Western Australia.



Makuru Season
Banksia Woodlands Makuru Season - Photo DGW.

Makuru season is wettest and coldest time of the year in the Noongar calendar.

The Noongar calendar is the indigenous calendar of the of the south west of Western Australia. It consists of six seasons and much more accurately depicts the weather of the region than the European's four seasons.

Traditionally, Noongar people were nomadic and lived off the land with a deep understanding of nature. As the oldest living culture, dating back over 40,000 years, indigenous Australians mastered the rhythmic patterns in nature, adapting to the changes in the land; predicting the weather, flowering seasons, animal migration and where to find food and water sources.

June and July is the Makuru Noongar season or the season of fertility, as many animals begin to pair-up over the colder months. Black Swans 'Mali', return to the waterholes and waterways preparing nests, Ravens 'Wardongs', can be seen following each other and you may notice they stop their usual crow-call, when they find a mate.

Traditionally, at this time of year the Noongar people would move from the coast to inland, as the wind changes to the west and south, bringing with it cold fronts. Waterholes, rivers and streams begin to fill with water, allowing moving across the, otherwise, dry land, much easier and land foods become available. The 'Yonga' Kangaroo, was hunted for its meat and its fur was collected to make cloaks 'Bookas', for protection from the rain and keep warm from the colder days. At this time, snow even occasionally fell on the peaks of the Stirling Rangers.

Blue and purple flowers begin to emerge, such as the Blueberry Lilly (Dianella revoluta) and Purple Flags (Patersonia occidentalis) start to bloom. Later in the season, white flowers from the Weeping Peppermint (Agonis flexuosa) emerge, signalling the end of the Makuru Season and a change to the new season 'Djilba', where clearer days begin and the land begins to warm again.


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