Glossary (Version 8.4)

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

In geography, there are two uses of the term ‘scale’:

  • 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 a ground and a corresponding distance on a map, with the scale coded on the map as a ratio, for example, ‘1 cm:100 km’ (map scale).

An economic problem of having needs and unlimited wants, but limited resources that can be used to achieve those needs and wants.

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

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.

In history, accounts about the past that were created after the time being investigated, and which often use or refer to primary sources and present a particular interpretation. Examples of secondary sources include writings of historians, encyclopaedia, documentaries, history textbooks and websites.

In geography, 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.

Relating to worldly rather than religion; things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual or sacred. For example, a secular society is one governed by people’s laws through parliament rather than by religious laws.

A doctrine that the three arms of government – the executive, the legislature (parliament) and the judiciary – are separate and independent, with powers that act as a check and balance on each other. In Australia, the separation between the executive and the legislature is weak because the executive is drawn from the legislature, but the separation between the judiciary and the other two arms of government is strong and is enforced by courts.

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.

Pertaining to events, periods, developments, perspectives and ideas of the past, which are regarded as having important consequences, duration and relevance to the present, from the point of view of society or ordinary people when contextualised to larger events.

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. The opposite of good social connections is social isolation or loneliness.

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

An idea that current generations promote social inclusion, cohesion and accountability so that future generations should be able to have the same or greater access to social resources as the current generations.

Any written or non-written material that can be used to investigate the past, for example, coins, photographs, letters, gravestones, buildings, transcript. A source becomes ‘evidence’ if it is of value to a particular inquiry.

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

In geography, 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.

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

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.

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

A level of wealth and consumption of a population (such as a nation or socioeconomic group), measured by using factors such as gross domestic product (GDP), inflation, income, employment, poverty rate, housing, access to and standard of health care and education, safety, and environmental quality.

In Australia, a statute is a written law, also known as an act of parliament or legislation, which commences as a bill, is passed by the parliament and has received royal assent (by the Governor-General or a governor, or, in very rare cases, directly by the monarch). A statute may commence upon royal assent, or a specified date, or upon a date declared in a proclamation. Also see common law.

One of 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 amount of goods and services that are available; an amount of goods that producers are willing to offer for sale.

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 development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development values resources for their future as well as current uses.

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