Wiradjuri used Gold-Dust Wattle as a seasonal indicator for the time to collect emu eggs. When this wattle bloomed, Wiradjuri began to gather emu eggs. From late winter to early spring, strong westerly winds blew and the blossom fell, signalling the end of egg gathering as the chick will have formed inside the egg and begun to grow. This practise of sustainability respects the emu cycle of life by leaving the developing chicks to hatch – this means the chicks can grow into adults which reproduce to hatch more eggs themselves, providing the Wiradjuri with a constant food source. Additionally, only adult male emus are killed for their meat leaving the females to lay the eggs.
Extending over a vast area in central New South Wales and bordered by the rivers Lachlan, Macquarie and Murrumbidgee, the grasslands running north and south to the west of the Blue Mountains, is the traditional home of the Wiradjuri. Despite the vastness of their Country, the Wiradjuri were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–grower-gatherers in family groups. The Wiradjuri’s close connection with the land provided them with valuable food and medicine resources such as grain from the grasses, kangaroo, possum, fish and shellfish, bats, and birds, particularly the emu.
Emu in the Sky
Wiradjuri people observed changes in the orientation of the Celestial Emu constellation in the night sky which they correlated to the breeding cycle of the emu: mating, laying and brooding of the eggs, and the hatching of the chicks.