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Aboriginal Perspectives on the Environment (ACS2122)


y separately published work icon Nourishing Terrains : Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness Deborah Bird Rose , Canberra : Australian Heritage Commission , 1996 Z1493612 1996 single work poetry non-fiction dreaming story (taught in 3 units)


This unit investigates ecological explanations of cultural diversity, differing notions of sustainable development, and the ecological and spiritual interrelationship integral to Indigenous cultures. Students study traditional and contemporary Indigenous relations with the environment, paying particular attention to spirituality, fire and land management, analyse the convergences and divergences between Indigenous environmental perspectives and the environment movement, and explore current issues and artforms linking Aboriginal people and the environment.


On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

1. describe and compare ecological and cultural explanations of human diversity;

2. discuss and evaluate different notions of the term sustainable development;

3. describe Indigenous Australian peoples traditional and contemporary spiritual/ecological relationship with the environment;

4. analyse current environment management issues affecting Indigenous people;

5. analyse government initiatives, policies and responsibilities with regard to Indigenous people, the environment and development strategies using current examples; and

6. discuss how a range of Indigenous writers and artists incorporate their perspectives on the environment in their work.


1. The historical-ecological and cultural approaches to explaining human economic and social diversity.

2. Sustainability and sustainable development.

3. Indigenous peoples traditional and contemporary spiritual/ecological relationships.

4. Land rights, native title and hunting and fishing rights.

5. Indigenous relations with mining, pastorlaism, tourism, national parks and conservation areas.

6. Government initiatives and responsibilities with regard to Indigenous culture, the environment, and sustainable development.

7. Indigenous Australian writers and artists views on current environmental issues.


On-Campus Assessment: Group presentation and in-class tests 30%; Major essay 40%; Examination 30%

Off-Campus Assessment: Minor essay 30%; Major essay 40%; Examination 30%

Supplementary Texts

Baker, R. (1999). Land is life: From bush to town: The story of the Yanyuwa people. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin

Berkes, F. (1999). Sacred ecology: Traditional ecological knowledge and resource management. Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis.

Callicott, J. Baird. (1999). Beyond the land ethic: More essays in environmental philosophy. New York: State University of New York Press.

Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: WW Norton.

Flood, J. (2000). Archaeology of the Dreamtime: The story of prehistoric Australia and its people (1999 Revised ed.). Sydney: Angus & Robertson.

Head, L. (2000). Second nature: The history and implications of Australia as Aboriginal landscape. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.

Langton, M. (1998). Burning questions: Emerging environmental issues for Indigenous peoples in Northern Australia. Darwin : Centre for Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management, Northern Territory University.

Lindqvist, S. (2007) Terra nullius: A journey through no one's land. Granta: Allen & Unwin.

Nannup, N. (2004). Carers of everything (CD). Midland, Swan Catchment Council.

Sveiby, K., & Skuthorpe, T. (2006). Treading lightly: The hidden wisdom of the worlds oldest people. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Other Details

The unit ACS2122 is taught concurrently with ACS4101.

Offered in: 2011, 2009
Levels: Undergraduate