Teacher background information


Year 8 Science Content Description

Science as a Human Endeavour

Use and influence of science

Solutions to contemporary issues that are found using science and technology, may impact on other areas of society and may involve ethical considerations (ACSHE135 - Scootle )

  • investigating use of sustainable technologies to deliver basic services in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and considering ethical implications of these (OI. 6)

This elaboration focuses on practical, technical and ethical aspects of providing access to basic services in remote communities. These remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are often at the forefront of adopting new and innovative technologies. This elaboration provides opportunities for students to explore a number of innovative and sustainable technologies currently being utilised to address the unique challenges faced by remote communities. It also enables students to examine the numerous benefits to quality of life resulting from the implementation of these sustainable technologies by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in remote communities. 

A great number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities remain located, as they have done for thousands of years, in remote areas of Australia. Upon European contact many groups were forced to abandon aspects of their traditional lifestyles and adhere to the assimilation pressures of the new dominant culture. This had a profound effect on Australia’s First Nations’ cultures and ways of life. However, some groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, despite the cultural shift, still live on their land and in some cases live a semi-traditional lifestyle incorporating an amalgamation of both cultures.  

The issues faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of their remoteness are multi-faceted. They involve the logistical, environmental and ethical considerations of providing infrastructure and access to basic services that people living in larger cities and regional centres perceive as their right as Australian citizens.  

For example, access to a reliable, secure electricity supply is deemed an essential for modern life. However, Australia’s complex network of transmission and distribution infrastructure principally services the needs of people living in a broad arc stretching along the coast from approximately Cairns to Adelaide, and in the south-west corner of Western Australia. In contrast, those Australians living in areas of low population density are ‘off-the-grid’ and have historically been dependent on less effective and non-sustainable methods, such as large, noisy and non-environmentally friendly diesel generators, for their electricity. 

It has been argued that providing and maintaining essential services, whether they be adequate water supplies, electricity, housing or telecommunications infrastructure to remote communities are too great a cost burden on taxpayers. Further, it has been suggested that many remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are not viable in the long term and that they should be abandoned, with the occupants relocated to areas that do not require basic utility assistance.  

In order to maintain their culture and remain on country, while simultaneously meeting their needs, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are now at the forefront of developing and embracing innovative technological solutions to living in remote parts of Australia. 

One example is the increasing utilisation of renewable energy technologies, such as the use of solar thermal collectors for hot water, or photovoltaic cell arrays (solar panels) in combination with long-lasting and low-maintenance battery banks to ensure an uninterrupted electrical power supply system. The use of these technologies, supported by careful analysis of demand requirements and effective energy conservation practices, has led to increasing self-sufficiency and sustainability of many remote communities. The adoption of these technologies by numerous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has resulted in better access to basic services and more reliable and cost-effective energy supplies, as well as reductions in carbon emissions and noise pollution. 

Another contemporary challenge being faced by remote communities is access to mobile telephone reception and internet services. Such services are not only essential for personal communication and access to information, but are also critical for educational purposes and the implementation of telehealth solutions, enabling patients in remote communities to connect with online healthcare professionals. Typically, mobile phone towers provide coverage within a 10-15-kilometre radius, the distance being dependent on terrain and obstructions in the line of sight path between the tower and the phone. By installing an unpowered passive parabolic dish antenna directed at the most suitable tower, mobile phone coverage can be boosted well beyond the existing footprint. Parabolic antennas use a curved surface made of sheet metal or wire grill with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola to direct the radio waves into a single focal point, thus achieving high signal gains. This technology is being used in a number of outdoor situations where the provision of electricity and the costs associated with securely housing and maintaining a powered antenna would be prohibitive. This makes the passive parabolic dish antenna an ideal solution for some smaller remote settlements, roadside stops and remote tourism locations. 

By engaging with this elaboration, students can explore how the range of technological solutions being adopted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has a markedly positive impact on quality of life, provides cost savings and makes remote communities more viable in the longer term. Students can also examine how adopting these technological solutions can be of further benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by providing training and employment opportunities to community members and enhancing economic sustainability through tourism. 

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.

Centre for Appropriate Technology Limited. (2009). Bushlight Case Study 32: Bushlight in Kakadu. Light and Life in the Bush. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5450868fe4b09b217330bb42/t/548a8c29e4b073a37e24db0b/1418365993058/Bushlight-Case-Study-32-Kakadu.pdf

Centre for Appropriate Technology Limited. (2012a). Bushlight Case Study 34: Focus on Education. Light and Life in the Bush. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5450868fe4b09b217330bb42/t/548a8bd0e4b02aee1ef5692e/1418365904524/Bushlight-Case-Study-34-Bushlight-Education.pdf

Centre for Appropriate Technology Limited. (2012b). Bushlight Case Study 35: Keeping the lights on. Light and Life in the Bush. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5450868fe4b09b217330bb42/t/548a8b9fe4b0b2470a9a4029/1418365855927/Bushlight-Case-Study-35-Mabunji.pdf

Centre for Appropriate Technology Limited. (2012c). The CfAT Ltd. Mobile Phone HotSpot: A place to connect when you are out of range. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5450868fe4b09b217330bb42/t/5b61141f352f532d2054a584/1533088807869/2018+CfAT+Ltd+Mobile+Phone+Hotspots_v4.pdf

Centre for Appropriate Technology Limited. (2014). Bushlight energy archive. Retrieved from http://cfat.org.au/bushlight-archive/

Cranenburgh, N. (2018, January 30). Remote communities finding success with renewable energy tech. Create Digital. Retrieved from https://www.createdigital.org.au/remote-communities-renewable-energy/

Foran, B. D., & Walker, B. W. (1986). The application of science and technology to Aboriginal development in central Australia. In Proceedings of a workshop held in Alice Springs from 8th to 10th October, 1985. Alice Springs, Northern Territory: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Centre for Appropriate Technology.

Harrison, D. (2014). Remote indigenous communities under threat. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/remote-indigenous-communities-under-threat-20141114-11myb9.html

Kagi, J. (2014). Plan to close more than 100 remote communities would have severe consequences, says WA Premier. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-12/indigenous-communities-closures-will-have-severe-consequences/5886840

National Rural Health Alliance Inc. (2009). Sustainable small communities (Fact Sheet 17). Retrieved from http://ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/fact-sheets/fact-sheet-17-sustainable small communities_0.pdf

Smith, M. S., Moran, M., & Seemann, K. (2008). The viability and resilience of communities and settlements in desert Australia. The Rangeland Journal, 30(1), 123-135.

Winckworth, K., & Hammer, A. (2017, January 10). The tyranny of distance is a major barrier for remote Australians seeking medical assistance for chronic disease. CSIRO News. Retrieved from https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2017/Remote-Australians-connected-to-healthcare