Teacher background information


Year 10 Science Content Description

Science as a Human Endeavour

Use and influence of science

People use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they accept claims, explanations or predictions, and advances in science can affect people’s lives, including generating new career opportunities (ACSHE194 - Scootle )

  • considering how ecological sciences are recognising the efficacy of traditional ecological practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and how restorative programs based on these practices are generating new career opportunities (OI.2, OI.5)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples possess in-depth traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of Australian ecosystems. Such knowledge of the environment, with its critical relationships and fragility, has allowed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop land-care practices that are conducted with a deep understanding of their impact. As technologies and data-collecting techniques develop, opportunities to demonstrate the efficacy of traditional ecological practices are emerging. For example, new scientific studies are monitoring the impact of traditional fire-management programs on greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, many land-care organisations are now utilising TEK in their regional land management programs which has led to new career opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. 

Over thousands of years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been living in close connection with their environment and have gained a deep understanding of the interdependence of plant, animal and human communities in these ecosystems. This rich body of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is expressed in a large variety of ‘caring for country’ practices, such as ‘firestick farming’ and sustainable harvesting practices. It rests on sophisticated knowledge from multiple scientific fields, such as: meteorological knowledge for the timing of seasons and the judgement of moisture conditions; botanical knowledge to understand the life cycles of plants, how certain plant species respond to fire, and how tolerant they are of fire intensity; and zoological knowledge to understand the population dynamics of certain targeted species and the species-specific knowledge underpinning sustainable harvesting practices.  

European colonisation has led to the discontinuation of these traditional ecological practices in many regions of Australia. Combined with the negative environmental impacts of industrial activities and cattle farming, such as increased soil erosion or saltwater ingress into coastal wetland areas and the introduction of invasive plant and animal species, many ecosystems have experienced dramatic deterioration during past decades, usually accompanied by a significant loss of biodiversity. 

Global efforts to counteract these negative impacts, which are felt in many sensitive ecosystems around the world, sparked the emergence of ‘restoration ecology’ in the 1980s as a separate branch of the environmental sciences. TEK has been recognised as an invaluable contributor to scientific knowledge in this field. Ever-increasing numbers of restoration projects in Australia are undertaken in collaboration with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and rely heavily on the knowledge and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ranger groups. Such restoration projects include rescue efforts for threatened plant and animal species, reintroduction of locally extinct species, prevention of saltwater ingress into coastal wetland areas, eradication of invasive weeds, biological control of feral predators, wildfire management through the reestablishment of traditional fire management regimes, habitat protection, monitoring endangered bird populations, and many other environmental protection and restoration efforts. 

By investigating restoration projects students gain an understanding of the scientific principles that govern the health of Australia’s vital ecosystems and have opportunities to learn about and appreciate the sophisticated ecological knowledge held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Students learn how the collaboration of these two important knowledge bases generates new thinking and solutions to environmental challenges. As a result, new career opportunities are emerging in the field of restoration ecology

In the construction of this teacher background information, a list of consulted works has been generated. The consulted works are provided as evidence of the research undertaken to inform the development of the teacher background information. To access this information, please read and acknowledge the following important information:

Please note that some of the sources listed in the consulted works may contain material that is considered culturally offensive or inappropriate. The consulted works are not provided or recommended as classroom resources.

I have read and confirm my awareness that the consulted works may contain offensive material and are not provided or recommended by ACARA as classroom resources.

The following sources were consulted in the construction of this teacher background information. They are provided as evidence of the research undertaken to inform the development of the teacher background information. It is important that educators recognise that despite written records being incredibly useful, they can also be problematic as they are often based on non-Indigenous interpretations of observations and records of First Nations Peoples’ behaviours, actions, comments and traditions. Such interpretations privilege western paradigms of non-First Nations authors and include, at times, attitudes and language of the past. These sources often lack the viewpoints of the people they discuss and can contain ideas based on outdated scientific theories. Furthermore, although the sources are in the public domain, they may contain cultural breaches and cause offence to the Peoples concerned. With careful selection, evaluation and community consultation, the consulted works may provide teachers with further support and reference materials that could be culturally audited, refined and adapted to construct culturally appropriate teaching and learning materials. The ability to select and evaluate appropriate resources is an essential cultural capability skill for educators.

Altman, J., & Kerins, S. (2012). People on Country: Vital landscapes, Indigenous futures. Sydney, NSW: The Federation Press.

Barbour, W., & Schlesinger, C. (2012). Who's the boss? Post‐colonialism, ecological research and conservation management on Australian Indigenous lands. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 36-41. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00632.x

Brennan K. E. C., Twigg P. J., Watson, A., Pennington, A., Sumner, J., Davis, R., . . . Underwood, R. (2012). Cross‐cultural systematic biological surveys in Australia’s Western Desert. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 72-80. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00628.x

Brook, R. K., & McLachlan, S. M. (2008). Trends and prospects for local knowledge in ecological and conservation research and monitoring. Biodiversity and Conservation, 17(14), 3501-3512. doi:10.1007/s10531-008-9445-x

Department of Environment and Conservation, & Lynch, R. (2012). Livestock. A guide to managing and restoring wetlands in Western Australia. Perth, Western Australia: Department of Environment and Conservation.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Office of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. (2017, May 29). $34m Indigenous savanna fire management programme [Media release]. Retrieved from https://ministers.pmc.gov.au/scullion/2017/34m-indigenous-savanna-fire-management-programme 

Ens, E., & McDonald, T. (2012). Caring for country: Australian natural and cultural resource management. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 1. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00633.x

Ens E., J., Finlayson, M., Preuss, K., Jackson, S., & Holcombe, S. (2012). Australian approaches for managing 'country' using Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 100-107. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00634.x

Ens E., J., Towler, G., M., & Daniels, C. (2012). Looking back to move forward: Collaborative ecological monitoring in remote Arnhem Land. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 26-35. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00627.x

Fitzsimons, J., Russell-Smith, J., James, G., Vigilante, T., Lipsett-Moore, G., Morrison, J., & Looker, M. (2012). Insights into the biodiversity and social benchmarking components of the northern Australian fire management and carbon abatement programs. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 51-57. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00624.x

Grice, A. C., Cassady, J., & Nicholas D.  M. (2012). Indigenous and non‐Indigenous knowledge and values combine to support management of Nywaigi lands in the Queensland coastal tropics. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 93-97. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00621.x

Heckbert, S., Russell-Smith, J., Davies, J., James, G., Cook, G., Liedloff, A., . . . Bastin, G. (2009). Northern savanna fire abatement and greenhouse gas offsets on Indigenous lands. In Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review Full Report. Canberra: Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

Mcintyre, D. (2018). Ancient Aboriginal patch burning helping understand fire impact on Tasmanian landscape.  ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-18/aboriginal-fire-techniques-shedding-light-on-tasmanian-biodive/9673118

Muhic, J., Abbott, E., & Ward M. J. (2012). The warru (Petrogale lateralis MacDonnell Ranges Race) reintroduction project on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 89-92. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00620.x

National Resource Management. (2014). Naturally inspired projects protect Tasmania’s southern environment. Retrieved from https://www.nrmsouth.org.au/naturally-inspired-projects-protect-tasmanias-southern-environment/

Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. (2008). Study: Western Arnhem Land fire management. Native Title Report 2007 (pp. 257-275). Sydney: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Preuss, K., & Dixon, M. (2012). ‘Looking after country two‐ways’: Insights into Indigenous community‐based conservation from the Southern Tanami. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 2-15. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00631.x

Queensland Government, The Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory. (2017, April 13). Tender awarded for services to enhance Aboriginal participation in Queensland carbon farming [Media statement]. Retrieved from http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2017/4/13/tender-awarded-for-services-to-enhance-aboriginal-participation-in-queensland-carbon-farming

Wallis, R., Wallis, A., & Picone, A. (2012). After 80 years absence, Wuthathi People plan for the return and management of ancestral homelands on Cape York Peninsula. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 81-84. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00625.x

Weston, N., Bramley, C., Bar‐Lev, J., Guyula, M., & O’Ryan, S. (2012). Arafura three: Aboriginal ranger groups protecting and managing an internationally significant swamp. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 84-88. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00626.x

Yen, A. L. Edible insects and management of country. (2012). Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 97-99. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00623.x