Teacher background information


Year 6 Science Content Description

Science Understanding

Earth and space sciences

Sudden geological changes and extreme weather events can affect Earth’s surface (ACSSU096 - Scootle )

  • researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultural stories that provide evidence of geological events (OI.3)

This elaboration will build students’ understanding of Australian geological changes through recordings by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples use oral language to document and record knowledge, retelling such records to enable the knowledge to endure through subsequent generations. This elaboration provides students with the opportunity to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ knowledge of geological events from many thousands of years ago, prior to European exploration of the region. The cultural stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples contain scientific evidence that explains the changes to Earth’s surface that gave rise to geological structures observed across Australia. Today, scientists are researching how such knowledges provide evidence for, and a deeper understanding of, geological events in Australia. As Aboriginal Peoples of Australia have been present for more than 60,000 years, they have witnessed many geological changes and extreme weather events. Similarly, Torres Strait Islander Peoples have lived for more than 7,000 years in a region susceptible to the effects of geological events such as earthquakes and tsunami.

The oral traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are highly detailed and complex and enable knowledge from many thousands of years ago to be passed down unbroken through generations. Such narratives include scientific evidence of geological events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunami, that have shaped Australia’s landscape. The knowledge that is held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples precedes European investigations of Australia, and hence today provides a deeper understanding of historical geological events that have led to specific land structures.

In far north Queensland recent volcanic activity is dated to more than 10,000 years ago. Volcanic activity in this region created many land formations including lakes and watercourses. Lake Barrine, in Crater Lakes National Park, is situated in the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland and encompasses the traditional lands of the Ngadjon-Jii and Yidinji Peoples. The geomorphic features of this region are the result of volcanic activity more than 17,000 years ago; Lake Barrine was formed by explosions from super-heated groundwater. The Ngadjon-Jii Peoples have passed on their geological and ecological knowledge of these volcanic events since this time, explaining not only the origin of the volcanic crater lakes of this region, but also the environmental and landscape changes that resulted from the volcanic eruption. The accuracy of this knowledge, dating back over 10,000 years, has been reaffirmed by Western scientific methods, and provides an example of how First Nations Peoples’ oral language traditions are an important repository of geological knowledge.

The eruption of Kinrara on the lands of the Gugu Badhun Peoples was another major volcanic event in the north Queensland region, dated to approximately 7,000 years ago. This volcanic activity generated geological changes in the region through lava flows that extended down the Burdekin River valley. The Gugu Badhun Peoples hold detailed knowledge of this volcanic event that explains the geological formations of the landscape and reaffirms recent vulcanological research in the area. Bungandidj Country in the Mount Gambier region in south eastern Australia has also experienced volcanic activity in the last 10,000 years. The oral records of the Bungandidj Peoples have preserved, for at least 4,000 years, the knowledge of volcanic events that formed the crater lakes at Budj Bim National Park.

Earthquakes can be caused by the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, resulting in shaking on the earth’s surface. When the centre of an earthquake occurs offshore, the ocean floor may be disrupted sufficiently to generate a tsunami. Movements of the Indo-Australian tectonic plates have been the cause of earthquakes in Australia. Oral narratives of the Awabakal Peoples of the mid north coast region of New South Wales demonstrate the longevity of the knowledge of earthquake activity in this region. Similarly, tsunami events that inundated Australia’s coastal regions are preserved, for example, in the knowledges of the Gundungarra Peoples of south eastern New South Wales and the Kambure Peoples of the Kimberley region in Western Australia. Many geological events over millennia have shaped the landscape of the Australian continent. Details of a considerable number of these geological events are detailed in the oral records of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Peoples who have a continuing connection to those geographical regions.

This elaboration provides students with an opportunity to learn about geological changes that have shaped the Australian landscape.  Students also learn how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples use oral based practices to record and convey knowledge, thereby preserving details of historical geological events for millennia. Students will have the opportunity to research the geological data in cultural stories and understand how the reaffirmation of oral records by recent scientific research endorses the importance of consulting these records as a historical source.

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.

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Andrews, R. (2017). True story of volcanic eruption told by Aboriginal People for 7,000 years. Retrieved from https://www.iflscience.com/environment/true-story-volcanic-eruption-told-aboriginals-7000-years/

Arnold, C. (2017, April 13). Indigenous peoples around the world tell myths which contain warning signs for natural disasters: Scientists are now listening. (Aeon). Retrieved from https://aeon.co/essays/indigenous-myths-carry-warning-signals-about-natural-disasters

Barber, M., Shellberg, J., Jackson, S., & Sinnamon, V. (2012). Working knowledge: Local ecological and hydrological knowledge about the flooded forest country of Oriners Station, Cape York. Darwin, N.T.: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Bindon, P., & Raynal, J. P. (1998). Humans and volcanoes in Australia and New Guinea. Humans and Volcanoes, 9(1), 71-75.

Bryant, E. (2014). Tsunami: The underrated hazard (2nd ed.). Berlin: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-06133-7

Bryant, E., Walsh, G., & Abbott, D. (2007). Cosmogenic mega-tsunami in the Australia region: Are they supported by Aboriginal and Maori legends? In L. Piccardi, & W. B. Masse (Eds.), Myth and Geology (pp. 203-214). London: The Geological Society of London. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1144/GSL.SP.2007.273.01.16

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Cohen, B. E., Mark, D. F., Fallon, S. J., & Stephenson, P. J. (2017). Holocene-Neogene volcanism in northeastern Australia: Chronology and eruption history. Quaternary Geochronology, 39, 79-91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quageo.2017.01.003

Coopes, A. (2015, March 3). Aboriginal legends an untapped record of natural history written in the stars. UNSW News. Retrieved from https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/aboriginal-legends-untapped-record-natural-history-written-stars

Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. (n.d.). Yumplatok earthquake factsheet. Retrieved from https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/word_doc/0026/55277/earthquake-tcs.docx

Didjshop.com. (n.d.) Lake Barrine: Ngajan Dreaming story. Retrieved from https://www.didjshop.com/stories/ngajan.html

Dixon, R. M. W. (1972). The Dyirbal language of north Queensland. London: Cambridge University Press.

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Gale, M. & Blake, B. (2013, July). The reawakening of Craitbul: The revival of the Boandik language of Mount Gambier. Paper presented at Australex Adelaide: Endangered Words, Signs of Revival, Adelaide, S.A. Retrieved from https://www.adelaide.edu.au/australex/conferences/2013/gale.pdf

Government of South Australia, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. (n.d.). Mount Gambier volcanic complex state heritage area. Retrieved from https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/files/sharedassets/public/heritage/her-fact-mtgambiervolcanicsha-factsheet.pdf

Hamacher, D. (2011, July 19). Volcanic eruptions and geomythology [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://aboriginalastronomy.blogspot.com/2011/07/volcanic-eruptions-geomythology.html

Hamacher, D. (2015, March 4). Finding meteorite impacts in Aboriginal oral tradition. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/finding-meteorite-impacts-in-aboriginal-oral-tradition-38052

Hamacher, D., & Norris, R. (2010). Australian Aboriginal geomythology: Eyewitness accounts of cosmic impacts? Archaeoastronomy, 22, 62-95. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/2087108056/

Huxley, M. (1998). Antiquity. Retrieved from http://www.ngadjonji.bigpondhosting.com/History/history2.html

Kershaw, A. P. (1970). A pollen diagram from Lake Euramoo, north-east Queensland, Australia. New Phytologist, 69(3), 785-805.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8137.1970.tb02463.x

Matthews, J. (2016, January 13). 7000 years of human settlement in the western Torres Strait [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://australianarchaeologicalassociation.com.au/7000-years-of-settlement/

McCue, K. (2012). Historical earthquakes in Queensland. Retrieved from https://aees.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/McCue_QLD_EQs.pdf

McCue, K. (2014). Historical earthquakes in Western Australia. Retrieved from https://aees.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Historical-Earthquakes-in-Western-Australia.pdf

Monash University. (n.d.). Indigenous Earth knowledge. Retrieved from http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/indigenous-scientific-knowledge/earth/

Morris, L. (2017, May 1). 7,000 year old Indigenous story proved true. National Geographic News. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/australia/7000-year-old-indigenous-story-proved-true.aspx

New South Wales Education Standards Authority. (2008). The kangaroo that lives inside Nobbys. Retrieved from https://ab-ed.nesa.nsw.edu.au/go/7-10/science/units/story-2/units/introducing-our-changing-earth-/activities-and-worksheets/the-kangaroo-that-lives-inside-nobbys

Nunn, P. D. (2001). On the convergence of myth and reality: Examples from the Pacific Islands. Geographical Journal, 167(2), 125-138. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-4959.00012

Nunn, P. (2014). Geohazards and myths: Ancient memories of rapid coastal change in the Asia-Pacific region and their value to future adaptation. Geoscience Letters, 1(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1186/2196-4092-1-3

Nunn, P. (2017, August 23). When the bullin shrieked: Aboriginal memories of volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-23/aboriginal-stories-of-volcanic-eruptions-when-bullin-shrieked/8835402

Nunn, P. D., & Pastorizo, R. (2007). Geological histories and geohazard potential of Pacific Islands illuminated by myths. In L. Piccardi, & W. B. Masse (Eds.), Myth and Geology (pp. 143-163). London: The Geological Society of London. https://doi.org/10.1144/GSL.SP.2007.273.01.13

Nunn, P. D., & Reid, N. J. (2015). Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian coast dating from more than 7000 years ago. Australian Geographer, 47(1), 1-37. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049182.2015.1077539

Randall, B. (2015, March 19). Queensland Places: Thursday Island earthquakes [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/2015/03/19/queensland-places-thursday-island-earthquakes/

Reid, N., Nunn, P. D., & Sharpe, M. (2014, September). Indigenous Australian stories and sea level change. Paper presented at 18th Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL): Indigenous Languages: Value to the Community, Okinawa, Japan. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/16307214/Indigenous_Australian_Stories_and_Sea-Level_Change

Rodriguez, L. E., Abbott, D. H., & Breger, D. (2011, December). Distal impact ejecta from the Gulf of Carpentaria: Have we found cometary fragments as part of the ejecta suite? Paper presented at American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California.