Teacher background information
Year 2 Science Content Description
Science as a Human Endeavour
Nature and development of scienceScience involves observing, asking questions about, and describing changes in, objects and events (ACSHE034 - Scootle )
recognising how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples observe and describe developmental changes in living organisms and answer questions about when to harvest certain resources (OI.5)
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have made continual observations about events in the environment for many thousands of years, asking questions and developing scientific explanations that describe changes in living organisms. Knowing the suitable times to sustainably access and harvest certain resources requires a comprehensive understanding of animal distribution and behaviour, including events such as reproductive cycles and migrations. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long observed developmental changes in animals. These observations can be used to provide information about when resources can be harvested, such as when an animal is most likely to be fat, when and where animals will migrate or aestivate, and nesting behaviour. This elaboration provides students with the opportunity to recognise how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long recognised and described developmental changes in living organisms and how this knowledge can be used to answer questions about when to harvest certain resources.
Prior to colonisation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ intimate and detailed knowledge of Country or Place facilitated the acquisition of all necessary resources from the natural environment. The availability of plant and animal resources is influenced by geographical location and the seasonal cycle, and these factors are well understood by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Ontogeny is the biological development of a living organism that results in progressive changes in shape, size and function. Developmental changes in living things provide information about the life cycle and stage of life of an organism. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long observed changes in living organisms and have a wealth of information about developmental events, including: knowing where and when eggs will be laid or hatch; the time an animal will be best for consumption; when a plant will fruit; and the migratory patterns of many animals. For many thousands of years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have observed and documented developmental changes in living organisms and this information is used to answer questions about when to harvest certain resources.
For many animals the deposition of fat is linked with seasonal food quality and availability, reproductive cycles and migratory patterns. Accumulation of body fat can be evidenced by weight gain in an animal and this has long been known and understood by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The English language term ‘fat cycle’ was coined in the 1980s as a way to describe the Yolŋu Language term djukurrmirr, that translates to ‘fat possessing’ in English. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples observe animals, such as fish, birds, crustaceans, mammals and reptiles, for djukurrmirr to indicate the developmental/cyclical stage of the animal and determine the optimal time for harvest.
The fat content of animals influences their flavour and is a highly desirable, high-energy resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Kuku Yalanji, Kuku Nyungul and Jalunji Peoples of Wujal Wujal, near the Bloomfield River in northern Queensland, assess the condition of a turtle by feeling the flesh under the front flipper of the animal. The Guugu Yimidhirr Peoples of the Hopevale region in northern Queensland identify the fatness of turtles by examining the base of the neck of the animal for the quality and quantity of flesh. Dugong hunters of the Torres Strait use a variety of observations of developmental change to select animals for harvesting. An experienced hunter can identify an animal that is fat and ready for harvest. Experienced hunters can also differentiate between male and female dugongs by the length of their faces and their position in the line of a swimming herd. Observations of developmental changes and behavioural characteristics mean that pregnant dugongs can be identified and excluded from the hunt. Zoological expertise is used to identify small dugongs, mother and calf or pregnant dugongs; hunting dugongs at these developmental stages is not permitted and only suitable animals are harvested. Experienced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ecologists have the skill to determine how many times a dugong has bred by the length and size of the female’s teats.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples possess deep knowledges of the migratory behaviours of many native species, and understand that such behaviours can be connected with developmental changes, such as reproductive or nesting events. The Torresian imperial pigeon, gainau in the Kalaw Lagaw Ya Language of the western Torres Strait Islander Peoples and daumer in the Meriam Mir language of the eastern Torres Strait Islander Peoples, migrate from New Guinea at the end of the monsoon season to nest in the mangrove areas of the Torres Strait Islands. The pigeon lays eggs that are incubated by both parents for approximately one month; each day the adult birds flock to inland areas to feed on wild nutmeg trees. Torres Strait Islander Peoples have long understood the migratory pattern of the pigeons and its association with developmental changes in birds, and they are hunted as they migrate in predictable patterns.
The flowering of Australian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) indicates the time the yula (palawa kani language term of Tasmanian Aboriginal Peoples for muttonbird; Ardenna tenuirostris), return from their northern hemisphere migration to breed on small islands in the Bass Strait and Tasmania. The adult birds return in September to prepare their nest; they then leave the nesting islands to feed and build up body reserves before laying a single egg in late November. The incubated egg hatches in January, and the parents feed and care for the hatchling until April, when the birds migrate back to the northern hemisphere. Tasmanian Aboriginal Peoples have long understood the developmental changes of yula, and use this knowledge to accurately time suitable periods to harvest eggs, chicks or fat adult birds for food, oil, feathers or down. Muttonbirding remains an important cultural and economic activity; today Tasmanian Aboriginal Peoples continue the practice in the ways of their ancestors.
Many species of plant are also observed for developmental changes to answer questions about when resources can be harvested. For example, the bonye (traditional Aboriginal name for the Bunya pine; Araucaria bidwillii), is a plant that has important significance to the Wakka Wakka, Jarowair, Djaku-nde and Barrungam Peoples of Booburrgan Ngmmunge (Bunya Mountains) in southern Queensland. The bonye produces large ovoid-shaped cones in an annual seasonal cycle, each weighing up to ten kilograms; bumper crops occur approximately every three years. Each cone can contain 60 or more seeds that are highly nutritious, rich in oils and carbohydrates. The Aboriginal Peoples who have cultural responsibilities for Booburrgan Ngmmunge and the bonye within the region, observe the developmental cycle of the tree to anticipate the times when an abundance of cones will occur. In anticipation of the three-year cycle that brings an abundance of seeds, special envoys sent by the custodians of the bonye carry message sticks to neighbouring communities to invite particular groups to attend the seasonal gathering. This is timed for when the seeds ripen and are ready for harvest. Thousands of Aboriginal Peoples travel great distances to attend the Bunya Gathering, trade goods and knowledges, share stories, songs and dances, conduct business, attend to personal matters, and feast on the abundant bonye seeds. Another plant, the Kangaroo Apple (Solanum laciniatum), is poisonous when unripe but a nutritious food source once ripened. For many thousands of years, Aboriginal Peoples of the south-eastern parts of Australia where the plant is found, have carefully observed the plant for developmental changes. The fruits are harvested when they are safe for consumption, that is when they change colour from yellow-green to bright blood-orange.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have observed the natural environment for millennia, and have built a wealth of knowledge about the developmental changes of the many native organisms within a Country or Place. Observing and describing developmental changes and associated events of living things in the environment ensures that the knowledges and understandings about organisms provide information about when to harvest particular resources. To ensure sustainability of species and thereby maintain the accessibility of resources, each organism and the best time for harvest are carefully considered. This elaboration provides students with the opportunity to recognise how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples observe and describe the developmental changes and reproductive events of living organisms, and how this information is used to answer questions about when to harvest particular resources.
In the construction of this teacher background information, a list of consulted works has been generated. The consulted works are provided as evidence of the research undertaken to inform the development of the teacher background information. To access this information, please read and acknowledge the following important information:
Please note that some of the sources listed in the consulted works may contain material that is considered culturally offensive or inappropriate. The consulted works are not provided or recommended as classroom resources.
I have read and confirm my awareness that the consulted works may contain offensive material and are not provided or recommended by ACARA as classroom resources.
The following sources were consulted in the construction of this teacher background information. They are provided as evidence of the research undertaken to inform the development of the teacher background information. It is important that educators recognise that despite written records being incredibly useful, they can also be problematic as they are often based on non-Indigenous interpretations of observations and records of First Nations Peoples’ behaviours, actions, comments and traditions. Such interpretations privilege western paradigms of non-First Nations authors and include, at times, attitudes and language of the past. These sources often lack the viewpoints of the people they discuss and can contain ideas based on outdated scientific theories. Furthermore, although the sources are in the public domain, they may contain cultural breaches and cause offence to the Peoples concerned. With careful selection, evaluation and community consultation, the consulted works may provide teachers with further support and reference materials that could be culturally audited, refined and adapted to construct culturally appropriate teaching and learning materials. The ability to select and evaluate appropriate resources is an essential cultural capability skill for educators.
Davis, S. (1989). Man of all seasons. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Dobson, G. T. (2015). The Warruwi Pond enigma: Pre-European aquaculture in Arnhem Land? [Doctoral dissertation]. Retrieved from https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/149964/2/b37811137_Dobson_G_T.pdf
Gray, F., & Zann, L. P. (1988). Traditional knowledge of the marine environment in Northern Australia: Proceedings of a workshop held in Townsville, Australia, 29 and 30 July 1985. Townsville: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Green, D., Billy, J., & Tapim, A. (2010). Indigenous Australians’ knowledge of weather and climate. Climatic Change, 100(2), 337-354.
Huth, J. (2002). Introducing the Bunya Pine: A noble denizen of the scrub. Queensland Review, 9(2), 7-20.
O'Dea, K. (1991). Traditional diet and food preferences of Australian Aboriginal hunter-gatherers. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 334(1270), 233-241.
O'Dea, K. (1992). Diabetes in Australian aborigines: Impact of the western diet and life style. Journal of Internal Medicine, 232(2), 103-117.
Prober, S., O'Connor, M., & Walsh, F. (2011). Australian Aboriginal peoples’ seasonal knowledge: A potential basis for shared understanding in environmental management. Ecology and Society, 16(2).
Skira, I. J. (1993). Tasmanian aborigines and muttonbirding: An historical examination [Doctoral dissertation]. Retrieved from https://eprints.utas.edu.au/21596/1/whole_SkiraIrynejJoseph1995_thesis.pdf
State of Tasmania, Department of Education. (2018, May). Muttonbirding. The Orb. Retrieved from https://www.theorb.tas.gov.au/living-cultures/muttonbirding/teacher-drawer
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. (n.d.). Palawa kani: Mutton-birding. Retrieved from http://tacinc.com.au/palawa-kani-mutton-birding-2/
Young, R. A. (1976). Fat, energy and mammalian survival. American Zoologist, 16(4), 699-710.