Teacher background information


Year 7 Science Content Description

Science as a Human Endeavour

Use and influence of science

People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced the development of practices in areas of human activity (ACSHE121 - Scootle )

  • investigating how the knowledge and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are being used to inform scientific decisions, such as the care of Country/Place (OI.2, OI.9)

This elaboration will give students the opportunity to examine how traditional land management techniques are gaining increasing acceptance by the wider scientific community and how, through collaborative and reciprocal partnerships with researchers and government agencies, these techniques are informing and being incorporated into programs designed to care for country.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ land management practices effectively sustained Australian landscapes for tens of thousands of years. Many of these practices, built on an in-depth understanding of the needs of each particular ecosystem, have been disrupted over the past two hundred yearsThis disruption has resulted in the emergence of a range of impacts that threaten the ecological and cultural integrity of these unique environments. 

Challenges arising from introduced agricultural practices include the restoration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, conserving biodiversity, protecting the habitats of a diverse range of endangered species, controlling the spread of, and eradicating, invasive species, and managing fire.  

Endeavours to re-introduce practices that incorporate aspects of traditional ecological knowledge and acknowledge customary law need to consider a range of issues in order to be successful. This requires the substantial involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land owners in the Caring for Country/Place. To promote this reintroduction of practices, many First Nations’ communities have invested considerable time, energy and resources to develop innovative partnerships with scientific researchers, government and industry. These cross-cultural partnerships allow for a two-way approach to share and exchange knowledge and skills from often complementary systems, in order to better understand issues affecting sustainability and to generate new ecological knowledge and responsive strategies to achieve a common purpose.  

A two-way, inclusive strategy based on respectful and ethical guidelines and protocols for incorporating First Nations’ knowledges into research practice, not only builds scientific knowledge, but also contributes to socio-cultural resilience through the cross-generational transfer and documentation of traditional ecological knowledge. The strategy also provides opportunities for reciprocal training; training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rangers and businesses in the use of technologies, and hence has the potential to improve economic development and well-being; and training for non-Indigenous researchers in First Nations’ land management practices. 

Australian Government policies and legislation increasingly recognise the need for a partnership approach and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ engagement in strategies designed to protect the environment and conserve biodiversity.  

By exploring how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge and experience are being used to reshape contemporary Australian land management practices, students have the opportunity to examine the interactions between First Nations’ and Western philosophies and how the scientific knowledge of each can influence the behaviours, philosophies and techniques of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous land management practitioners.

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.

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

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. (2009). Working on country: A retrospective. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

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

Ens, E. J., Pert, P., Clarke, P. A., Budden, M., Clubb, L., Doran, B., . . . Wason, S. (2015). Indigenous biocultural knowledge in ecosystem science and management: Review and insight from Australia. Biological Conservation, 181, 133-149. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.11.008

Gratani, M., Sutton, S. G., Butler, J. R., Bohensky, E. L., & Foale, S. (2016). Indigenous environmental values as human values. Cogent Social Sciences, 2(1), 1185811.

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

Hoffmann, B. D., Roeger, S., Wise, P., Dermer, J., Yunupingu, B., Lacey, D., . . . Panton, B. (2012). Achieving highly successful multiple agency collaborations in a cross‐cultural environment: Experiences and lessons from Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation and partners. Ecological Management & Restoration, 13(1), 42-50. doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2011.00630.x

Michie, M. (2005, July). Engaging with Australian Indigenous science. Workshop presented at CONASTA 54, the annual conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association, Melbourne, Victoria. Retrieved from http://members.ozemail.com.au/~mmichie/engaging.htm

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

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