In this Inquiry students investigate how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural groups’ long-term habitation of their respective territories has led to an in-depth knowledge of the physical conditions of the environment, in particular the physical conditions that determine the growth and survival of important living things (resources) found within their lands.

Larrakia Seasonal Calendar - CSIRO

Biological sciences: The growth and survival of living things are affected by physical conditions of their environment. (ACSSU094 )

This type of knowledge gained over thousands of years is called Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Indigenous Australians have long associated the presence and growth of particular organisms with dominant physical conditions of that environment. For example, long neck turtles are collected in freshwater environments whereas mud mussels are collected in high salt environments. TEK is currently being used by Indigenous groups throughout Australia to restore the delicate physical conditions that have been damaged by modern agricultural and development practices. The restoration of these environments are essential to the continued growth and survival of much of Australia's flora and fauna (living things) and ensures future access to these important cultural resources.

Pig face (Carpobrotus glaucescens)

Acute observational skills and a long history of living within the Australian environment has culminated in Indigenous Australians having remarkable and sophisticated ecological knowledge. Indigenous Australians long and ongoing relationship with the environment has provided the opportunity to observe, record and explain innumerable biological phenomena. Gathering of such data has directly led to explanations of events such as fire as an abiotic factor and its effects on the ecosystem such as nutrient availability. This ecological knowledge of fire and its influence on the growth and survival of living communities has informed Indigenous Australian land management practices for thousands of years. Indigenous Australians have long provided historical contributions to the science appropriate to fire regimes. This represents just one of many important cultural contributions being used today in a modern context to address damaged environments and ensure Australian biodiversity is maintained.

Through the student-led design and conducting of these Inquiries, students develop and exhibit a range of science inquiry skills such as questioning and predicting, planning and conducting, processing and analysing and evaluating and communicating.

A high salt ecosystem Mangrove North QLD

This inquiry allows students to experience how an abstract key science concept (reversible and irreversible change) has relevance in daily life (both traditionally and in current time).

Students learn that Indigenous Australians used some of these same science skills thousands of years ago when they developed a profound understanding of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. For example, experimentation and trialling of fire based land management practices led to the recognition of patterns and trends in the changing environment and repeated observations over long periods of time, such as such as salt-water ingress into freshwater swamps, led to the acute awareness of incompatible physical conditions upon living things.

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