7–10 Geography



absolute location

Location measured by the coordinates of latitude and longitude. Also see relative location.

aerial photograph

A photograph taken from the air, which can be oblique (taken at an angle) or vertical (taken from straight above the ground); the former being easier for young students to interpret.


(Termed outlier in mathematics). A data value that appears to stand out from other members of the data set by being unusually high or low. The most effective way of identifying an anomaly in a data set is to graph the data. In geographical data, classified by place, anomalies will identify places that do not fit a general pattern, which make them of particular interest to study.

attachment to place

People’s emotional feelings about and identification with places, which can contribute to their personal wellbeing and sense of identity.


A variety of living organisms and ecosystems they form. Biodiversity has direct value as consumable or useful commodities, indirect value through the provision of ecosystem services, and intrinsic value independent of its utility to humans.


Total mass of living organic matter in a particular area.


A major terrestrial vegetation community, for example, a tropical forest, a temperate grassland or a desert. Similar biomes are found around the world in similar climatic zones, but may have different species of plants and animals.

biophysical process

Interconnected sequence of cause-and-effect relationships within environments, for example, a hydrological (water) cycle; geomorphic processes of weathering, erosion, transportation and deposition; soil-forming processes; land degradation; fluvial processes; and nutrient cycling.

blue water

In geography, fresh water in rivers, lakes and dams.


A study of and a practice of map-making, including construction of projections, design, compilation, drafting and reproduction, which aims to model reality in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.

characteristics of places

Include people, climate, production, landforms, built elements of the environment, soils, vegetation, communities, water resources, cultures, mineral resources and landscape. Some characteristics are tangible, for example, rivers and buildings. Others are intangible, for example, scenic quality and socioeconomic status.

choropleth map

A thematic map in which areas are shaded to show higher and lower values.


A long-term average (minimum 30 years) of weather conditions at a place. For example, some climates are hot and wet all year (Singapore); some have hot, wet summers and warm, dry winters (Darwin); and some have warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters (Adelaide and Perth). Climates can be classified into distinctive types, such as equatorial, tropical, temperate, Mediterranean, semi-arid and arid. These types are found in similar locations around the world.

climate graph

A graph showing average monthly temperature (by a line) and rainfall (by columns) for a location.

climatic zones

Areas of the earth that have similar climatic conditions. The major zones are hot, temperate and polar and are roughly demarcated by lines of latitude.

comparative place analysis

A comparison of places. It may be used to identify the effects of factors such as climate, relative location, technology, culture and government on the characteristics of a place.

conservation and preservation

Conservation is careful management of the environment and natural resources, acknowledging that they may be changed in order to affect a better future for humankind, but not if the impacts on them are too great. Alternatively, preservation is an act of maintaining the existing condition of environmental areas as yet untouched by humans.

continuous resources

Those resources, such as solar or wind energy, whose availability is unaffected by their use by humans. Also see environmental resources.


In the Australian Curriculum, Country in this instance refers to a space mapped out by physical or intangible boundaries that individuals or groups of Aboriginal Peoples occupy and regard as their own. It is a space with varying degrees of spirituality.

Place (as it pertains in Country/Place) is a space mapped out by physical or intangible boundaries that individuals or groups of Torres Strait Islander Peoples occupy and regard as their own. It is a space with varying degrees of spirituality.


A body of beliefs, attitudes, skills and tools by which communities structure their lives and interact with their environments.custodial responsibility

An obligation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have to care for the Country/Place on which they live, even if they are not traditional owners of that Country/Place. Traditional owners have primary responsibility for Country/Place.


Information that is directly recorded, which can be quantitative or qualitative.


Economic, social and political changes that improve the wellbeing of people.

digital mapping tools

Software programs that create maps.

digital terrain model

A digital model of a land surface in which vegetation, buildings and other objects have been removed.


Natural arrangement of items in a particular place, for example, distribution of population in a country, distribution of forests across the world.


A functioning unit of nature defined by a complex set of relationships among its living organisms (such as microorganisms, plants, animals, humans) and its non-living components (such as water, minerals, soil, air), where all organisms and components are interdependent through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Every unit can be explored at macro levels (such as the planet) or as specific limited areas.

ecosystem services

Services provided by ecosystems, which support life without requiring human action or payment, for example, climatic stability, hydrological regulation, nutrient cycling, pollination, pest control, soil formation and protection from ultraviolet radiation.

ecosystem-based management

Management based on improving health of an ecosystem producing commodities rather than on maximising production of individual commodities, for example, by increasing biodiversity, restoring hydrological systems, protecting marine breeding areas or rebuilding soil structure and fertility.

energy flow

A flow of energy through a biological food chain; a movement of energy around an ecosystem through biotic and abiotic means. Also referred to as ecology.


A setting and conditions of an area in which activity occurs, and where features may be natural, managed or constructed.

environmental functions

Functions of the environment that support human life and economic activity, which are:

  • production of raw materials from the natural resources of soil, water, forests, minerals and marine life (the earth’s source function).
  • safe absorption (through breakdown, recycling or storage) of wastes and pollution produced by production and human life (the earth’s sink function).
  • provision of environmental or ecosystem services that support life without requiring human action, for example, climatic stability, biodiversity, ecosystem integrity and protection from ultraviolet radiation (the earth’s service function).
  • intrinsic recreational, psychological, aesthetic and spiritual value of environments (the earth’s spiritual function).
environmental quality

Characteristics of a local environment that affect human physical and mental health and quality of life, for example, an extent of air and water pollution, noise, access to open space, traffic volumes, and visual effects of buildings and roads.

environmental resources

Resources sourced from an environment, which can be classified as renewable, non-renewable and continuous.

environmental world view

A person’s view of the relationship between humans and nature. This ranges from human-centred (in which humans are separate from nature, and any environmental problems can be solved by technology) to earth-centred (in which humans are a part of and dependent on nature and have to work with nature).

ethical protocols

Involves an application of fundamental ethical principles when undertaking research and collecting information from primarysources and secondarysources, for example, confidentiality, informed consent, citation and integrity of data.

export industries

Industries that sell a service to customers who come from other places to obtain the service, as in tourism and education of students from overseas. Both industries bring income into a place.

features of places

Visible elements of a place or landscape, classified as natural, managed and constructed. This term is used in early primary education, but is later replaced by the term ‘characteristics’, which includes both visible and invisible elements of a place.


Any activity involving observation and recording of information outside a classroom. It could be within the school grounds, around neighbouring areas or in more distant locations.

geographic information system (GIS)

A system for storing, managing, analysing and portraying spatial data. It has been described as a combination of database management, cartography and statistical analysis.

geographical concentration

Advantages people and businesses gain from clustering together, for example, greater access to information, greater variety of goods and services, better transport and communication services, and more varied employment opportunities. These advantages help to explain continuing growth of cities.

geographical inquiry methodology

A process of gathering information from primary sources and secondary sources as part of the geographical inquiry process. Geographical inquiry methodologies involve skills needed to formulate questions and initiating, planning and implementing an inquiry relevant to a geographical issue, process or phenomenon.

geographical processes

Physical and human forces that work in combination to form and transform the world, for example, erosion, hydrological (water) cycle, migration or urbanisation. Geographical processes can operate within and between places.

geographical significance

Why a question is worth investigating.


Relating to a form, shape, structure or surface of the earth or its topography.

geomorphic hazard

A hazard originating from the lithosphere, including volcanic eruption, earthquake, tsunami and mass movement (landslide or avalanche).

geomorphic landscape

An area defined by a distinctive set of landforms produced by a distinctive set of geomorphic processes, for example, a riverine, arid or coastal landscape.

green water

Water available for plant growth as soil moisture. Almost all of the world’s natural vegetation, and most of its agriculture, depends on soil moisture.


When forces of nature combine to become destructive and have potential to damage the environment and endanger communities.

housing density

A number of dwellings per hectare. Data required to calculate this measure can be obtained from Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census QuickStats and community profiles.

human wellbeing

Quality of life of a population. This can be measured by objective indicators, for example, life expectancy, educational attainment and income, or by subjective measures of how people perceive the quality of their life, as revealed by surveys of happiness.

human–environment systems thinking

A method of analysing complex interactions between an environment and people, which is able to integrate environmental with attitudinal, demographic, social, economic, technological and political factors. Systems thinking seeks to understand the whole rather than its parts, and see patterns of change over time rather than just as a snapshot in time. The drivers–pressures–state–impact–response (DPSIR) model used in the Australian State of the Environment report (SoE 2011) is an example of a human–environment system. Systems can be extended to include elements, for example, values and beliefs.

hydrological system

Systems of water movement on, above and below the surface of the earth.

immediate and underlying causes

Immediatecauses of environmental change are biophysical processes such as vegetation clearance, cropping and urban development, while underlying causes are influences such as population growth, government policies, market demand, economic growth, technology, values and attitudes. These causes can be combined in a human–environment system.

internal migration

Movement of people from living in one defined area to living in another within a country, for example, movement from cities to non-metropolitan coastal locations, or between states and territories.

inter-regional transfer of water

Transfer of water from one river basin to another, for example, the transfer of water from the Snowy River to the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers in the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

isoline/isopleth map

A map of a geographical variable showing its spatial distribution by lines joining places with the same value, for example, a rainfall map.

land and water degradation

Degradation of the health of land and water resources through human actions in ways that threaten an ability of the resources to maintain their environmental functions. Degradation includes salinity, accelerated soil erosion, soil fertility decline, soil acidification, spread of weeds, loss of biodiversity and habitats, and water pollution.


Individual surface features of the earth identified by their shape, for example, dunes, plateaus, canyons, beaches, plains, hills, rivers and valleys.


Visible appearance of an area, created by a combination of geological, geomorphological, biological and cultural layers that have evolved over time, and as perceived, portrayed and valued by people. A geomorphic landscape is the landscape without the biological and cultural layers.


The solid portion or crust and upper mantle of the earth, also called the geosphere, which is distinguished from atmosphere and hydrosphere.


An assessment of what a place is like to live in, using particular criteria, for example, environmental quality, crime and safety, education and health provision, access to shops and services, recreational facilities and cultural activities.

local area

An area around a student’s home or school that can be explored in a few hours. The local level of scale refers to all areas of similar size.

natural vegetation

Vegetation that has evolved in an area over time.

net primary productivity (NPP)

Plant biomass gain measured in tonnes of carbon per hectare per year, as a product of the energy gained through photosynthesis minus the energy lost through respiration. It is an indicator of the natural agricultural productivity of an area, based on its climate.

non-renewable resources

Resources that cannot be renewed, for example, minerals. Soils that have been degraded can only be renewed over long timescales. Also see environmental resources.

nutrient cycle

Recycling of plant nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, whether by natural means or human intervention.

outline map

A map that only gives very basic information so that more detail can be added, for example, a map showing the borders of a country.


A regularity in data portrayed in graphs or maps, for example, a decline in population density or rainfall in Australia with increasing distance from the coast.


People’s subjective assessment of places and environments.


A part of the earth’s surface that is identified and given meaning by people, which may be perceived, experienced, understood and valued differently.

population pyramid/profile

A graph showing age and sex composition of a population.

preservation and conservation

Preservation is an act of maintaining the existing condition of environmental areas as yet untouched by humans. Alternatively, conservation is a careful management of an environment and natural resources, acknowledging that they may be changed in order to affect a better future for humankind, but not if the impacts on them are too great.

prevention, mitigation and preparedness

Actions taken in advance to decrease or eliminate the impact of a hazardous event on people, communities and the environment, by actions including, for example, lessening the hazard and reducing the vulnerability of a community. Preparedness refers to actions taken to create and maintain a capacity of communities to respond to, and recover from, natural disasters, through measures like planning, community education, information management, communications and warning systems.

primary sources

Unprocessed, original materials collected by a student, for example, field notes from observations, measurements taken from experiments, or responses received from a survey or questionnaire.

qualitative methods

Explanatory and interpretive methods, for example, participant observation, focus group discussion or interviews, which are used to gather qualitative data (that is, information that can only be described, such as people’s perceptions of environmental quality).

quantitative methods

Statistical and other methods used to analyse quantitative data (that is, information that can be expressed in numbers, for example, crime rates for local government areas).


An area in which various parts have something in common, which distinguishes them from neighbouring regions. Regions can be divisions of a nation, for example, the Wheatbelt of Western Australia; or larger than a nation, for example, South-East Asia or a climatic zone. The latter are called ‘world regions’ in the Australian Curriculum.

relative location

A location relative to other places, for example, the distance to a town from other towns. Relative location has a stronger influence on human characteristics of places than absolute location, as demonstrated by advantages of closeness to suppliers, finance, information and markets for businesses, and to education and employment opportunities for individuals. Also see absolute location.


Distant, far away, for example, a place distant from major population and economic centres.

renewable resources

Resources that are or can be renewed within a relatively short time, for example, water through a hydrological (water) cycle; and plants, animals and marine life through reproduction. However, overuse of a renewable resource can lead to its disappearance, as with overexploitation of a fishery or over-extraction of groundwater. Also see environmental resources.


Demonstrating geographical information in a visual form, for example, a graph, map, image, field sketch or a multilayered map.

satellite image

A digital image captured by satellites above the earth’s surface, for example, those combined in Google Earth. It can be processed to measure-specific aspects of the land surface, for example, areas of water or farmland.

  • A way that geographical phenomena and problems can be examined at different spatial levels, such as local scale, and global scale (spatial scale)
  • A relationship between a distance on the ground and a corresponding distance on a map, with the scale coded on the map as a ratio, for example ‘1 cm : 1 km’ (map scale).
scatter plots / scatter graphs

Graphs that plot a relationship between two variables, for example, population density and distance of a place from the centre of a city, or rainfall and height above sea level. The method can be used to identify anomalies for closer study.

scattergram graphic organiser

A graphic organiser to ecord collected data to reveal correlations, for example, dates and ages of death collected from a scan of a cemetery.

seasonal calendar

A classification of weeks or months of a year into seasons. The standard classification is spring, summer, autumn and winter, but this is a temperate zone concept imported from Europe. In northern Australia, the seasons are commonly described as the wet and the dry. Aboriginal cultures have much more complex classifications, and these vary considerably from region to region across Australia because they are finely tuned to local climates and changing availability of food and other resources.

secondary sources

Sources of information that have been collected, processed, interpreted and published by others, for example, census data, newspaper articles, and images or information in a published report.

settlement pattern

A spatial distribution of different types of human settlement, from isolated dwellings to villages and outstations, towns, regional centres and large cities. Smaller settlements typically form spatial patterns around larger settlements.

social connectedness

A measure of a number and strength of people’s social relationships with other people. These relationships or connections may be with people in the same place or in other places, and they can be face-to-face connections or electronic. An opposite of good social connections is social isolation or loneliness.

social justice

A concept that all people have the right to fair treatment and equal access to the benefits of society.


A three-dimensional surface of the earth on which everything is located and across which people, goods and information move.

spatial association

Similarity in spatial distributions of two or more phenomena. A spatial association suggests that there may be a relationship between the phenomena, which can then be explained through an operation of atmospheric, hydrologic, geomorphic, biological, socioeconomic or political processes.

spatial distribution

An arrangement of particular phenomena or activities across the surface of the earth.

spatial technologies

Any software or hardware that interacts with real-world locations. A use of spatial technologies forms the basis of many geographers’ work practice. The Global Positioning System (GPS), Google Earth, geographic information systems (GIS) and satellite images are the most commonly used spatial technologies to visualise, manipulate, analyse, display and record spatial data.

spatial variations

A difference or variation (in terms of population, population density, gross domestic product (GDP), life expectancy) over an area of the earth’s surface.


One of the many world views that informs ways of achieving sustainability. When applied to the environment, stewardship is an ethical position that supports careful management of environmental resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Stewards do not own resources; they only manage them.


An ongoing capacity of an environment to maintain all life, whereby the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.


A group of interacting objects, materials or processes that form an integrated whole. Biophysical systems include humans and their activities and impacts.

thematic map

A map that portrays a specific type of information, for example, rainfall, transport routes, climatic zones or population distribution.

topographic map

A detailed, large-scale map of part of the earth’s surface, which illustrates the shape of the land and selected natural and human features from the surrounding environment.


A pattern in change over time in a set of data.

urban concentration

A percentage of the urban population of a country or region living in the largest city.


A process of economic and social change in which an increasing proportion of the population of a country or region live in urban areas.

vegetation corridor

Strips of vegetation that connect larger but isolated vegetated areas. They enable movement of animals and plants between places, reduce ecological effects of habitat fragmentation and help protect biodiversity.

water scarcity

A lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a place. It can result from an absolute shortage of water (physical water scarcity), lack of money to utilise an adequate source of water (economic water scarcity) or the unequal distribution of water resources due to political or ethnic conflict.

West Asia (Middle East)

The countries of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and Iran. Afghanistan is sometimes included in the region or in Central Asia. ‘West Asia’ is also known as the ‘Middle East’.

world region

Biophysical, geographical, economic or political regions larger than a nation, for example, the Sahara Desert, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Global North and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

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