Activity Introduction

54 river 3 heroQuick summary: Students watch a series of videos to gain a historical perspective of strategies used by Indigenous Australians in managing Country with fire. They write a fictional newspaper article using a range of online resources. Their article includes a fictional interview with an Indigenous Australian about why it is important for them to return to Country. Students build a deeper understanding of how indigenous groups and scientists can revitalise cool burning practices to substantially reduce carbon emissions.

Learning goals:

  • Students learn about the history of using fire in land management.
  • Students understand the cultural and environmental benefits of using cool burning to manage Country.
  • Students create an imaginative text based on information and ideas from primary and secondary sources of information.

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

Australian Curriculum content descriptions:

Year 7 History: 

  • The nature of the sources for ancient Australia and what they reveal about Australia’s past in the ancient period, such as the use of resources (ACDSEH031)
  • Analysis and use of resources, identify the origin and purpose of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS209)

Year 7 English:

  • Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, selecting aspects of subject matter and particular language, visual, and audio features to convey information and ideas (ACELY1725)

Syllabus Outcomes: EN4-4B, HT4-5

Time needed: 120 min

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – introduce new content, assist with student research, confirm they understand the communication project, assess student outcomes.

Resources needed: Internet, digital projector, individual devices for students and headphones. Tropical Savanna – The Big Picture PresentationFact Sheet – How do Indigenous Australians use fire?.

Digital technology opportunity: Observe the recent history of fire and the issue of vast hot burns by observing the maps on 

Extension opportunities: Investigate other ways in which Indigenous Australians use fire. 

Keywords: Indigenous Australians, Aboriginals, resources, wildfire, bushfire, cool burns, seasons, adaptation, savanna, ecology

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 goal: Students investigate how Indigenous Australian people used fire to manage the savanna. They find out how they used their knowledge of seasons and local conditions to produce mosaic burns and implement other fire management strategies. They compare cool burns with burns that are more damaging to wildlife later in the season. At the conclusion, they are able to explain the benefits of the reintroduction of managing Country with cool burns.

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, Ind

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Student Worksheet

Thought starters: what would your family do around a camp fire?

Step 1: Learning through story

VIDEO 1: Traditional knowledge is the solution -

VIDEO 2: Historical burning -

VIDEO 3: Working with scientists -

3-2-1 Thinking tool

Respond to the videos using the prompts below:

What are three thoughts you have about the history of cool burning?

What are two questions you have about cool burning?

What is one issue you have identified about cool burning?

Step 2: Investigating the issues

Write a short newspaper article about how Indigenous fire management practices benefit the community and the environment. You should include a fictional interview with an Indigenous person. Your article should address the following themes:

Indigenous Australians' savanna management practices - a historical perspective

  • What did Indigenous Australians do to manage
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