Exploring Aboriginal histories and cultures through Cool Burning - Education Matters Magazine

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Exploring Aboriginal histories and cultures through Cool Burning

Approximately 23% of the Australian mainland is covered in tropical savanna. Australia’s tropical savanna is made up of about 1.9 million square kilometres of dense grass and scattered trees that stretch across Northern Australia from Broome to Townsville. Each year in the late dry season, hot bushfires sweep through a large proportion of this area causing significant damage. These burns destroy everything in their path, including natural habitats and farmland.

For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have actively managed the savanna using cool burning techniques. Their knowledge of the seasons and local conditions have enabled them to manage the land through the effective use of fire. Traditional Aboriginal methods of managing Country through early dry season cool burning has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence and intensity of hot fires later in the dry season. Cool burning reduces the amount of damage done by hot fires to ecosystems by promoting new plant growth and clearing natural waste materials.

Through collaboration with scientists and policymakers, Indigenous land managers are breaking new ground. Hot fires in Australia’s tropical savanna contribute one to three percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions each year. Using cool burning techniques, Indigenous land managers are generating a local-term economy for their community through carbon credits. Projects that earn carbon credits are providing employment for young Aboriginal people, empowering them to remain on their traditional land. Renewed traditional management practices are also inspiring them to learn more about their heritage and has given them greater respect for their Elders.

Indigenous land management is a great way for integrating ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures’ and ‘Sustainability’ into the Australian Curriculum. Cool Australia, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, has created Cool Burning. Over 12,000 teachers have used the Cool Burning resources since their launch, resulting in over a quarter of a million students participating in learning activities about the importance about caring for Country.

This series of primary and secondary teaching and learning resources have been mapped to the content descriptors of the Australian Curriculum. The free-to-access lesson plans, student worksheets and digital libraries celebrate the success of Indigenous land management programs, while providing teachers with classroom-ready material that helps students explore our shared histories, cultures and achievements.

Central to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and culture is the sharing of knowledge and world views through oral communication. The Cool Burning teaching resources contain rich video content of Indigenous rangers telling their story. Students can watch John Daly, an Indigenous ranger from Fish River, telling his personal story. Daly explains why he cares for Country and the benefits of using Cool Burning.

Cool Burning provides opportunities for teachers to enrich their curriculum and for students to deepen their knowledge of Australia by engaging with the world’s oldest continuously living cultures.

Cool Australia also provides an online professional development to support primary and secondary teachers with using the Cool Burning resources. The workshop is facilitated by an award-winning educator, provides additional content and the ability to chat with other teachers from across Australia. It is also accredited for teacher PD hours with each state and territory.

Primary Curriculum – www.coolaustralia.org/unit/cool-burning-primary/
Secondary Curriculum – www.coolaustralia.org/unit/cool-burning-seconday/
Professional Development – www.coolaustralia.org/onlinecourses

By Thea Nicholas and Kirsty Costa

Cool Australia is an award-winning, not-for-profit organisation that provides educators and teachers with resources to help young people learn for life. Many thanks to the Nature Conservancy, Fish River Station and photographer Peter McConchie for supporting this project.

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