The Geography curriculum identifies the concepts of place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, scale and change, as integral to the development of geographical understanding. These are high-level ideas or ways of thinking that can be applied across the subject to identify a question, guide an investigation, organise information, suggest an explanation or assist decision–making. They are the key ideas involved in teaching students to think geographically.
In Foundation to Level 2, there is a particular emphasis on the use of the concepts of place, space and environment in studies at a personal and local scale. The concept of interconnection is introduced in Level 2 to develop students’ understanding of how people are connected to places in Australia and across the world. These concepts continue to be a focus of study in Levels 3–6 but the scale of the places studied moves from the local to the national, world regional and global scales. The concepts of sustainability and change are also introduced in these years. In Levels 7–10, students further develop their understanding of place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability and change and apply this understanding to a wide range of places and environments at the full range of scales, from local to global, and in a range of locations.
The concept of place is about the significance of places and what they are like. In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of place is developed by establishing that:
Places are parts of the Earth’s surface that are identified and given meaning by people. They may be perceived, experienced, understood and valued differently. They range in size from a part of a room or garden to a major world region. They can be described by their location, shape, boundaries, features and environmental and human characteristics. Some characteristics are tangible, such as landforms and people, while others are intangible, like scenic quality and culture.
Places are important to our security, identity and sense of belonging, and they provide us with the services and facilities needed to support and enhance our lives. Where people live can influence their well-being and opportunities.
The environmental characteristics of a place are influenced by human actions and the actions of environmental processes over short to long time periods.
The human characteristics of a place are influenced by its environmental characteristics and resources, relative location, connections with other places, the culture of its population, the economy of a country, and the decisions and actions of people and organisations over time and at different scales.
The places in which we live are created, changed and managed by people.
Each place is unique in its characteristics. As a consequence, the outcomes of similar environmental and socioeconomic processes vary in different places, and similar problems may require different strategies in different places.
The sustainability of places may be threatened by a range of factors. For example, natural hazards, climate change, economic, social and technological change, government decisions, conflict, exhaustion of a resource and environmental degradation.
The concept of space is about the significance of location and spatial distribution, and ways people organise and manage the spaces that we live in. In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of space is developed by establishing that:
While environmental and human characteristics of places are influenced by their location, improvements in transport and communication technologies are reducing the effects on people of location and distance from other places, though unequally.
The individual characteristics of places form spatial distributions, and the analysis of these distributions contributes to geographical understanding. The distributions also have environmental, economic, social and political consequences.
Spaces are perceived, structured, organised and managed by people, and can be designed and redesigned, to achieve particular purposes.
The concept of environment is about the significance of the environment in human life, and the important interrelationships between humans and the environment. In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of environment is developed by establishing that:
The environment is the product of geological, atmospheric, hydrological, geomorphic, edaphic (soil), biotic and human processes.
The environment supports and enriches human and other life by providing raw materials and food, absorbing and recycling wastes, maintaining a safe habitat and being a source of enjoyment and inspiration. It presents both opportunities for, and constraints on, human settlement and economic development. The constraints can be reduced but not eliminated by technology and human organisation.
Culture, population density, type of economy, level of technology, values and environmental worldviews influence the different ways in which people perceive, adapt to and use similar environments.
Management of human-induced environmental change requires an understanding of the causes and consequences of change and involves the application of geographical concepts and techniques to identify appropriate strategies.
Each type of environment has its specific hazards. The impact of these hazards on people is determined by both natural and human factors and can be reduced but not eliminated by prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
The concept of interconnection emphasises that no object of geographical study can be viewed in isolation. In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of interconnection is developed by establishing that:
Places and the people and organisations in them are interconnected with other places in a variety of ways. These interconnections have significant influences on the characteristics of places and on the ways these characteristics change.
Environmental and human processes, such as the water cycle, urbanisation or human-induced environmental change, are sets of cause-and-effect interconnections that can operate between and within places. They can sometimes be organised as systems involving networks of interconnections through flows of matter, energy, information and actions.
Holistic thinking describes the process of seeing the interconnections between phenomena and processes within and between places.
The concept of sustainability is about the capacity of the environment to continue to support our lives and the lives of other living creatures into the future. In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of sustainability is developed by establishing that:
Sustainability is both a goal and a way of thinking about how to progress towards that goal.
Progress towards environmental sustainability depends on the maintenance or restoration of the environmental functions that sustain all life and the economic and social well-being of humans.
An understanding of the causes of unsustainability requires a study of the environmental processes producing the degradation of an environmental function, the human actions that have initiated these processes, and the attitudinal, demographic, social, economic and political reasons for these human actions. These can be analysed through the framework of human-environment systems.
There are a variety of contested views on how progress towards sustainability should be achieved and these are often informed by worldviews such as stewardship.
The concept of scale is about the way that geographical phenomena and problems can be examined at different spatial levels.
In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of scale is developed by establishing that:
Generalisations made and relationships found at one level of scale may be different at a higher or lower level. For example, in studies of vegetation, climate is the main factor at the global scale but soil and drainage may be the main factors at the local scale.
Cause-and-effect relationships cross scales from the local to the global and from the global to the local. For example, local events such as the effects of local vegetation removal can have global outcomes.
The concept of change is about explaining geographical phenomena by investigating how they have developed over time. In the Geography curriculum, an understanding of the concept of change is developed by establishing that:
Environmental change can occur over both short and long time frames, and both time scales have interrelationships with human activities.
Environmental, economic, social and technological change is spatially uneven and affects places differently.
An understanding of the current processes of change can be used to predict change in the future and to identify what would be needed to achieve preferred and more sustainable futures.
Information Communication Technologies and Geography
Information Communication Technologies (ICT) are powerful tools that can support student learning. Students can develop and demonstrate their understanding of concepts and content in Geography using a range of ICT tools. It is also important that students know how to use these ICT efficiently and responsibly, as well as learning how to protect themselves and secure their data.
Details of how ICT can support student learning in Geography is set out in the attached Information Communication Technologies and Geography pdf.