Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students undertake an investigation into Indigenous Australians’ traditional use of fire to manage Country. They scrutinise extensive research to explore the benefits of fire regimes such as cool burning in land management. To bring their research, together students will draw up two checklists. One will identify the best conditions for cool burns and the second will evaluate how a specific cool burn went. They draw conclusions about the best way to use fire to manage and reduce land degradation.

Learning goals:

  • Students identify the environmental, cultural and economic benefits of cool burning.
  • Students recognise the difference between facts, claims, and feelings.
  • Students draw conclusions about Indigenous land management.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding, intercultural understanding

Australian Curriculum content descriptions:

Year 10 Geography:

  • The human-induced environmental changes that challenge sustainability (ACHGK070)
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ approaches to custodial responsibility and environmental management in different regions of Australia (ACHGK072)
  • The application of geographical concepts and methods to the management of the environmental change being investigated (ACHGK074)
  • Develop geographically significant questions and plan an inquiry that identifies and applies appropriate geographical methodologies and concepts (ACHGS072)
  • Collect, select, record and organise relevant data and geographical information, using ethical protocols, from a range of appropriate primary and secondary sources (ACHGS073)
  • Evaluate multi-variable data and other geographical information using qualitative and quantitative methods and digital and spatial technologies as appropriate to make generalisations and inferences, propose explanations for patterns, trends, relationships and anomalies, and predict outcomes (ACHGS076)
  • Apply geographical concepts to synthesise information from various sources and draw conclusions based on the analysis of data and information, taking into account alternative points of view (ACHGS077)
  • Identify how geographical information systems (GIS) might be used to analyse geographical data and make predictions (ACHGS078)
  • Present findings, arguments and explanations in a range of appropriate communication forms selected for their effectiveness and to suit audience and purpose, using relevant geographical terminology and digital technologies as appropriate (ACHGS079)

Syllabus OutcomesGE5-2, GE5-3, GE5-4, GE5-5, GE5-7, GE5-8

Topic: Cool burning

Time needed: 2 – 3 lessons

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – students need to have an open mind to the depth of knowledge among Indigenous peoples and how their knowledge can be practically applied. 

Resources needed: Access to computers and the Internet. Info Sheet – what the scientific studies found out, Info Sheet – Indigenous Australians using fire to care for Country

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum. There is great diversity in histories and cultures among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout Australia. This resource includes investigations into and information about some of them. It has an emphasis, but not an exclusive one, on the histories and cultural practices of the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory. It is underpinned by consultation with Aboriginal communities in various parts of Australia. 

Special thanks to:

Fish River Station, John Daly, Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith, Peter Jacklyn, Peter McConchie, Dr Tommy George, David Claudie, Dale Musgrave, Carolyn George and Victor Steffensen.

Made possible by:



Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation

Overarching learning goals: Students conduct research to investigate Indigenous traditional burning practices. They draw conclusions about whether these practices work to reduce hot burns and whether or not there are other environmental benefits. They will produce two checklists that identify when to burn and how to evaluate the burn afterwards.

Teacher content information:

The Australian tropical savanna covers northern Australia from Western Australia to Queensland. The term 'tropical savanna' is a description of an environment that is covered in grasslands with scattered shrubs and trees. Some savannas are mostly grass while others are heavily wooded. They all have a thick covering of grass. Wetter climates can be covered by rainforest, while drier climates are usually semi-arid. The major influences on the tropical savanna are the extremes between the wet and the dry seasons and they mostly have poor soils. Where the wet season provides a lot of rain the gra

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Student Worksheet

Thought starter: consider how Indigenous Australian people have used fire to manage Country throughout history.

Part 1: Getting the facts

You are a newspaper reporter looking into the claim that traditional knowledge should be used for land management in northern Australia. You need to distinguish facts from thoughts and judgments by watching the videos below. Your job is to determine:

  • which facts you are sure about.
  • which facts you need to know more about.
  • your observations about the thoughts and feelings of the interviewee.


Facts that are clear

Facts that are NOT clear (need further information)

Thoughts and feelings of the interviewee

Facts that are clear

Facts that are NOT clear (need further information)

Thoughts and feelings of the interviewee

VIDEO 1: Restoring Country with cool burns -

VIDEO 2: How to conduct

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