Activity Introduction

Quick summary: Students undertake an investigation into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ traditional use of fire to manage Country. They will undertake 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 other 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.

21st century skills:

CommunicatingCritical ThinkingCultural UnderstandingEthical Understanding

Australian Curriculum Mapping

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)
  • 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)
  • 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

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking, Literacy, Ethical Understanding, Intercultural Understanding

Cross-curriculum priorities:

Relevant parts of Year 10 Geography achievement standards: Students identify, analyse and explain significant interconnections between people, places and environments and explain changes that result from these interconnections and their consequences. They critically evaluate a range of primary and secondary sources to select and collect relevant, reliable and unbiased geographical information and data. They analyse and synthesise data and other information to draw reasoned conclusions, taking into account alternative perspectives. Students present findings, arguments and explanations using relevant geographical terminology and graphic representations and digital technologies in a range of selected and appropriate communication forms. 

Topic: Cool Burning, Indigenous Education.

Unit of work: Cool Burning – Secondary.

Time needed: 120 mins.

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

Resources required:

Related professional development: 

Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, fire, cool burning, savanna, land management.

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.

Cool Australia would like to acknowledge the support of the Bennelong Foundation in updating these lessons.

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. 


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ... identify the environmental, cultural and economic benefits of cool burning.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... work independently and collaboratively
  • ... think critically and analytically to propose solutions
  • ... undertake research online.

Teacher content information: In Australia, 23-25% of the land is covered in tropical savanna. Each year in the late dry season, hot fires sweep through a large proportion of this area. Hot burns result in about 25% of the landscape being burnt, which contributes between 1% and 3% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (Note: this figure just accounts for nitrous oxide and methane rather than the total emissions that includes any carbon dioxide not absorbed by new growth.). Before European contact, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of the tropical savanna managed Country using fire during the early dry season. Over the past ten years Aboriginal and Torres

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought Starter: How could 'cool burns' help us manage the increasing frequency and intensity of Australian bushfire seasons?

Getting The Facts - Reporters Notebook

Imagine you are a newspaper reporter looking into the claim that 'cool burns should be used as a bushfire management tool'. 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.

1. Watch the following clip and complete the table below:

Restoring country with cool burns from Cool Australia on Vimeo.

Facts that are clear

Facts that are NOT clear (need further information)

Thoughts and feelings of the interviewee

2. Now watch the following clip and again record your thoughts about this clip in the table below:

How to conduct a cool burn from Cool Aust

- or - to view worksheets

Leave your Feedback

We appreciate your feedback. Let us know what you like or don't like about this activity:

Sorry. You must be logged in to view this form.