Teacher background information


Year 9 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 (ACSHE160 - Scootle )

  • considering how the traditional ecological knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is being reaffirmed by modern science and how this is generating new career opportunities in the field of restorative ecology (OI.2, OI.5, OI.9)

This elaboration provides students with opportunities to learn about how knowledge and experience in traditional fire management practices are creating employment and business opportunities for Aboriginal communities and providing significant benefit to the environment and to all Australians.  

Modern science recognises traditional fire management techniques as a means of reducing risk from bushfires as well as minimising greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. 

Since modern scientific understanding of fire ecology has recognised the effectiveness of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fire management practices in mitigating bushfire risk and fostering biodiversity (see elaboration for ACSHE157), government authorities are now advocating the re-introduction of traditional fire-management regimes in northern Australia’s savanna regions. In addition to the ecological benefits, this approach has also created new economic opportunities for Aboriginal communities in northern Australia. As recent advances in remote-sensing technologies have made it possible to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from space (see elaboration for ACSHE158), carbon credit schemes have been initiated and provide an economic incentive to reapply land management practices that are informed by traditional ecological knowledge. 

The Carbon Farming Initiative (2011-2014, incorporated into the Emissions Reduction Fund from 2015) allows carbon credits to be earned by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These carbon credits are measured in Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) with each unit representing one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2-e) stored or avoided by a project. To be eligible for the credits, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ranger groups, land councils, traditional owners, local communities and other organisations participating in the scheme must first develop a vegetation map of their proposed area. The vegetation map is important because different types of vegetation generate different amounts of greenhouse gases. Participants must then determine a 10-year fire history of their area. From these data participants are able to calculate the area’s historical average baseline of greenhouse gas emissions. Project participants can then use vegetation maps and satellite fire maps to determine the emissions abatement achieved by the reinstated fire-management regime. Many of these projects, such as the WALFA project in Western Arnhem Land or the Fish River Fire Project southwest of Darwin, are undertaken in close collaboration with traditional owner groups and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and rely heavily on the knowledge and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ranger groups. 

The carbon credits earned through these projects are on-sold to companies to offset the amount of greenhouse gas pollution they are emitting into the atmosphere. The monetary returns from these carbon trading schemes are reinvested locally to expand existing projects or found new initiatives, thus creating a demand for workers with experience in traditional ecological knowledge as well as in modern science and technology. This creates career opportunities for park rangers and field officers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ranger groups, as well as ecologists, zoologists, botanists and similar science-related professions. It also provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to maintain and strengthen connection with country and place 

By investigating the application of traditional fire management practices in the context of carbon abatement schemes to reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions, students have opportunities to appreciate how traditional ecological knowledge, combined with contemporary science and technology, is creating new career opportunities in Indigenous communities of Northern Australia

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.

Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. (2000). Fire! The Australian Experience. Proceedings of the National Academies Forum. University of Adelaide, SA: Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Limited.

Barnsley, I., & North Australian Indigenous Land & Sea Management Alliance. (2009). A carbon guide for northern Indigenous Australians. United Nations University: Institute of Advanced Studies

Clean Energy Regulator. (2018). Savanna fire management methods. Retrieved from http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/ERF/Choosing-a-project-type/Opportunities-for-the-land-sector/Savanna-burning-methods

Commonwealth of Australia. (2015). Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

Department of the Environment and Energy. (2018). Emissions Reduction Fund publications and resources. Retrieved from http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/government/emissions-reduction-fund/publications

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science: Office of Northern Australia.  (2015). Our north, our future: White Paper on developing northern Australia. Retrieved from https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/our-north-our-future-white-paper-on-developing-northern-australia

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

Gammage, B. (2011). The biggest estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin.

Garnaut Climate Change Review. (2010). Case Study: Abating greenhouse gas emissions through strategic management of savanna fires: Opportunities and challenges – Northern Territory. In R. Garnaut (Ed.), Garnaut Climate Change Review. Commonwealth of Australia: Cambridge University Press.

Kimberley Land Council. (n.d.). Action on the Land: Reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability: An issues paper. Retrieved from http://climatechangeauthority.gov.au/sites/prod.climatechangeauthority.gov.au/files/files/Action on the Land/KLC AOTL submission.pdf

North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd. (2012). Carbon. Retrieved from https://www.nailsma.org.au/programs/carbon.html

Queensland Government, Office of the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef. (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

Russell-Smith, J. (n.d.). Fire agreement to strengthen communities. North Australian Land Manager. Retrieved from http://savanna.cdu.edu.au/view/250363/fire-agreement-to-strengthen-communities.html

Xu, G., & Zhong, X. (2017). Real-time wildfire detection and tracking in Australia using geostationary satellite: Himawari-8. Remote Sensing Letters, 8(11), 1052-1061. doi:10.1080/2150704X.2017.1350303