Gathering of the Clouds: attending to Indigenous understandings of time and climate through songspirals

Bawaka Country, S. Wright*, S. Suchet-Pearson, K. Lloyd, L. Burarrwanga, R. Ganambarr, M. Ganambarr-Stubbs, B. Ganambarr, D. Maymuru

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


New engagements between humans and with the environment are vitally necessary in this perilous period of intensified environmental change. Climate change policy interventions and public discourses persistently frame climate as outside human experience, something to be controlled and understood within a strict, linear, universalist and ultimately colonising understanding of time. Yet constructions that suggest that humans are separate from, act upon or may manage or control a passive environment may be offensive to a sentient world, while relegation of the past to ‘the past’ ignores the many enduring violences of colonialism and multiple sustained efforts to nurture multi-temporal relationships of belonging and care. In this paper, our more-than-human Indigenous and non-Indigenous research collective share understandings of time led by the Yolŋu songspiral, Wukun or Gathering of the Clouds, from northern Australia. Wukun challenges many orders and disciplines of colonial structures, including those associated with time and climate change. In place of an abstract, distant and unbound climate, locked into a linear, passive timescape, Wukun suggests time as multiple, agential, and a manifestation of co-becoming. Rather than being responsible to or responsible for climate as something passive and separate from humans, Wukun signals a need to cultivate abilities to attend deeply to place's agency and act through co-becoming. In this way, we may understand and respond to climate change as relational and patterned, embodied and affective, and co-constituted through more-than-human placed and multi-temporal relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
Early online date20 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Aboriginal songlines
  • Climate change
  • Indigenous geographies
  • Time and temporality
  • Weather


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