The members of the collective Noongar cultural block descend from peoples who spoke several languages and dialects that were often mutually intelligible. What is now classed as the Noongar language is a member of the large Pama-Nyungan language family. Contemporary Noongar speak Australian Aboriginal English (a dialect of the English language) laced with Noongar words and occasionally inflected by its grammar. Most contemporary Noongar trace their ancestry to more than one of these groups. The 2001 census figures showed that 21,000 people identified themselves as indigenous in the south-west of Western Australia.
The Noongar peoples had variously, according to their territory, to adapt to four different Mediterranean-type climatic zones, with dry spells varying from as few as three to as many as eleven months.[b] Tribes were spread over three different geological systems: the coastal plains, the plateau, and the plateau margins, all areas characterized by relatively infertile soil. The north was characterized by casuarina, acacia and melaleuca thickets, the south by mulga scrubland but it also supported dense forest stands. Several rivers ran to the coast and with lakes and wetlands provided the Noongar with their distinctive food and vegetation resources, depend on locality.
Generally, Noongar made a living by hunting and trapping a variety of game, including kangaroos, possums and wallabies; for people close to the coastal zone or riverine systems, spear-fishing or culling fish in traps was customary. An extensive range of edible wild plants were also available, including yams and wattle seeds. Nuts of the zamia palm, eaten during the Djeran season (April–May) required extensive treatment to remove its toxicity, and for women may have had a contraceptive effect. The forebears of the Noongar, as early as 10,000 BP, utilised quartz, replacing chert flint for spear and knife edges, when the chert deposit was submerged by sea level rise during the Flandrian transgression.