absolute majority

Refers to the minimum number of votes required, which is more than half of all votes, that is, 50 per cent of the total vote plus one, to make a democratic decision by a group.

active citizenship

Refers to involvement and informed participation in the civic and political activities of society at local, state, national, regional and global levels. It contrasts with ‘passive citizenship’ where citizens participate only minimally to meet their basic individual responsibilities including voting and paying taxes.

aerial photograph

Can be oblique (taken at an angle) or vertical (taken from straight above the ground); the former is easier for young students to interpret.

allocation (of resources)

Refers to how scarce resources ('factors of production') are distributed among producers, and how scarce goods and services are apportioned among consumers.


As defined in the Australian Curriculum: History, the Ancient period covers history from the development of early human communities (from 60 000 BCE) to the end of late antiquity (around 650 CE).


Something made or shaped by humans for their use, such as a stone tool, a metal sword or plastic toy.

attachment to place

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

Australian Government

Refers to the federal or national government of Australia. Previously known as the Commonwealth Government, it was established by the Australian Constitution at the time of Federation.

Australia’s democracy

Is a system of government grounded in liberal democratic values and a belief in civic engagement. It includes a written constitution, a well-established representative parliamentary process based on the Westminster system and a constitutional monarch.


An abbreviation of ‘before the Common Era’. It is the same dating system as the traditionally used BC, meaning ‘before Christ’. Historical dates before the birth of Christ are classified as BCE. There is no year zero in this dating system, so the year CE 1 immediately follows the year 1 BCE. Also see the CE.


The Australian Parliament is bicameral, which means there are two houses. The Senate; is which is also known as the upper house; and the House of Representatives, which is also known as the lower house.


The variety of living organisms and the 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.


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

burden of proof

The legal principle where a duty – or ‘burden’ – is placed on a party in a court action to prove or disprove disputed facts before the court will make a judgment. It is the threshold that a party seeking to prove a fact in court must reach in order to have that fact legally established; that is, to convince a decision-maker in a trial (judge; jury) that one’s version of the facts is true. (In general, the threshold or level is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in a criminal dispute and ‘on the balance of probabilities’ for civil disputes).

business activity

All activity associated with the production and trade of goods and services by a business.

business environment

The contemporary events or trends that influence a business, industry or market.


An organisation, enterprise or business engaged in the production and trade of goods and services, usually for profit.


All equipment (machinery, buildings, infrastructure) used by human labour in the process of production, for example, a secretary uses a computer; a bricklayer uses a trowel; a farmer uses a plough.

cause and effect

The concept of cause and effect is used to examine the relationship between events or actions, where one event or action is the result of the other. In History, cause and effect is also used to identify chains of events and developments over time.


An abbreviation of `Common Era’. It is the same dating system as the traditionally used AD, short for the Latin phrase Anno Domini, ‘the year of our Lord’. Historical dates after the birth of Christ are classified as CE. There is no year zero in this dating system, so the year CE 1 immediately follows the year 1 BCE. See the glossary term for BCE.


The concept of change involves both time and space. Geographical phenomena are constantly changing, and can often be best understood by investigating how they have developed over time periods ranging from a few years to thousands of years. This is important in helping students to understand what is happening around them and to see their world as dynamic. In History, change refers to aspects of life or of a society that have changed or developed over time. The causes of change, or the resistance to change, can be investigated, along with the nature and pace of change and the impact of change.

characteristics of places

The geographical 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.


A person who holds citizenship of an entity, such as a country, and who is a member of a political community which grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens, and in return expects them to act responsibly such as to obey their country's laws.


A legal status granted by birth or naturalisation to citizens involving certain rights (e.g. protection; passport; voting) and responsibilities (e.g. obey the law; voting; defend country). A modern sense incorporates three components: civil (rights and responsibilities); political (participation and representation); and social (social virtues and community involvement). Citizenship is also understood as membership of social, political, national or community groups that carries with it rights and responsibilities, and duties and privileges, and is guided by social virtues and encourages active participation.


The identifiable body of knowledge, skills and understandings relating to the organisation and working of society. It refers to a nation’s political and social heritage, democratic processes, government, public administration and legal system.

civil Law

Deals with non-criminal matters. It allows an individual to bring actions against other members of the public.


The average types of weather, including seasonal variations, experienced by a place over a long period of time. 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.

climatic zones

Refers to areas of the Earth that have similar temperatures. The major zones are hot, temperate and polar and are roughly demarcated by lines of latitude. Within each zone there are different climates, because of the effects of the distribution of continents and oceans and the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and oceans. For example, Adelaide and Sydney are on almost the same line of latitude but, while Adelaide has a Mediterranean climate with very dry summers and moderately wet winters, Sydney has a temperate climate with wet summers and drier, but not dry, winters.

common law

A body of English law traditionally based on custom and court decisions. Also known as case law or precedent, it is law developed by judges through decisions of courts.


A group of people who have common characteristics, share similar interests or reside in the same place.

competitive advantage

An advantage that a business holds over others in its industry, sector or location. The advantage means that the business is able to sell more of a product, or operate at a lower cost, or better meet the needs of consumers. Competitive advantage usually implies that the business is more profitable than its competitors.

compulsory Voting

A system in which electors are required by law to vote in both state and federal elections, by either attending a polling place on Election Day or voting by mail. If an eligible voter does not vote, they may be subject to fines or community service. It is compulsory for Australian citizens 18 years and over to enrol to vote.


It is about the ways that people and places and other people and places are connected to each other through many different ways such as environmental processes, the movement of people, flows of trade and investment, the purchase of goods and services, cultural influences, the exchange of ideas and information, political power and international agreements. These connections can be complex, reciprocal or interdependent, and have a strong influence on our perceptions and sense of connection to other people and places.


The fundamental principles on which a state or other organisation (such as a club) is governed. Usually this takes the form of a legal document setting out specific powers for the government or governing of that entity.

constitutional monarchy

A form of monarchy in which the monarch acts as a country’s head of state within the guidelines of a constitution and the advice of an elected government, which constrain the monarch’s powers.


A person or a group that is the final user of goods and services produced within an economy.


Occurs when particular interpretations about the past are open to debate (for example, as a result of a lack of evidence or different perspectives)..


Aspects of the past that have remained the same over certain periods of time are referred to as continuities. See continuity and change.

continuity and change

In History, continuity and change refer to aspects of life or of a society that have remained the same or aspects that have changed or developed over time. The causes of change, or the reasons why change has been resisted and things have remained the same, can be investigated, along with the nature and pace of change and the impact of change. Concepts such as progress and decline may be used to evaluate continuity and change in a time period.


Unwritten rules of political procedure based on traditional, established practices that are widely accepted. Australia’s political system has adopted many of the unwritten conventions of the British Westminster system. Conventions may defy the constitution; for example, the procedure for the appointment of Australia’s Governor-General.

cost-benefit analysis

The benefits and costs of a project or decision are determined and evaluated. The evaluation includes monetary and non-monetary effects.


A Country is 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. A 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.

criminal Law

Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It regulates the way people behave towards each other and includes the punishment of people who violate these laws.


The customs, habits, beliefs, social organisation and ways of life that characterise different groups and communities.

custodial responsibility

The obligation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples 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.

customary law

Acknowledged behaviour by individuals and groups who recognise the benefits of behaving in accordance with other people’s expectations and customs. Here this refers to the customary law of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; however, in Australia, customary law is subject to constitutional and common law.


The amount of a good or service that consumers are willing and able to purchase at a particular point in time.


A system of government based on the people of an entity, that is, ‘government by the people’; a form of government where the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected representatives under a free and fair electoral system.

democratic values

Values that reflect a society’s democratic way of life. Respect, equality, fairness and freedom are some examples of Australia’s democratic values.


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

direct action

People participating in person and directly on issues they seek to change, within the bounds of the law.

division of powers

Refers to the vesting of powers within different levels of government. Under the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth Government was vested with specific powers while the states retained general powers. In practice, the distribution of powers has become increasingly centralised over time.

economic development

A quantitative (output and value) and qualitative (wellbeing) improvement in the standard of living.

economic growth

The increase in the quantity of goods and services produced in an economy over a period of time; the increasing ability of society to satisfy the needs and wants of its people.

economic performance

The measure of how well an economy is performing is based on whether it is achieving its economic objectives. A range of economic indicators are used to enable an assessment to be made on the level of economic performance.

economic reasoning

Applying the principles of economics to understand the possible causes and effects of economic events and changes; that is, using economic and business ideas to explain and analyse economic and business events and issues.

economic system

The system that coordinates the production and distribution of goods and services.


A social science (study of human behaviour) that studies the decisions made by individuals, households, businesses, governments and other groups about how scarce resources are allocated in attempting to satisfy unlimited needs and wants.


All activities undertaken for the purpose of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in a region or country.


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


Producing goods and services using the minimum amount of resources; obtaining the greatest amount of goods and services from limited resources; avoiding wastage of resources.


Those who have the right to participate in an election and chose to do so.


Empathy is an understanding of the past from the point of view of a particular individual or group, including an appreciation of the circumstances they faced, and the motivations, values and attitudes behind their actions.


An empire exercises political, economic and cultural rule or control over other peoples and nations, such as the Roman Empire and the British Empire.


Providing an impetus, such as good ideas, skills, organisation or vision to be successful.


A person who sets out to build a successful business in a new field. An entrepreneur’s methods are sometimes regarded as ‘ground-breaking’ and innovative.


The term ‘environment’, where unqualified, means the living and non-living elements of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere (i.e. the natural environment). It also includes human changes to the Earth’s surface, for example, croplands, planted forests, buildings and roads (i.e. the built environment).

environmental functions

These are the functions of the environment that support human life and economic activity. The first of these functions is the production of raw materials from the natural resources of soil, water, forests, minerals and marine life (the Earth’s ‘source’ function). The second is the safe absorption (through breakdown, recycling or storage) of the wastes and pollution produced by production and human life (the Earth’s ‘sink’ function). The third is the provision of the 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). The fourth is the intrinsic recreational, psychological, aesthetic and spiritual value of environments (the Earth’s ‘spiritual’ function).

environmental quality

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

environmental resources

Environmental resources can be classified as renewable, non-renewable and continuous.

  • Renewable environmental resources are those which are, or can be, renewed within a relatively short time, for example, water through the water cycle; and plants, animals and marine life through reproduction. However, overuse of a renewable resource can lead to its disappearance, as with the overexploitation of a fishery or the over-extraction of groundwater.
  • Non-renewable environmental resources are those that cannot be renewed, for example, minerals. Soils that have been degraded can only be renewed over long timescales.
  • Continuous environmental resources are those, such as solar or wind energy, whose availability is unaffected by their use by humans.

environmental worldview

A person’s view of the relationship between humans and nature. These range 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.


The perceived fairness of the way scarce resources are used and the way the benefits of production are distributed.

ethical protocols

Involves the application of fundamental ethical principles when undertaking research and collecting information from primary and secondary sources, for example, confidentiality, informed consent, citation and integrity of data.


Evidence is information and/or data collected to support a hypothesis, an argument or an explanation, or to prove or disprove a conclusion. In History, evidence is the information obtained from sources that is valuable for a particular inquiry (for example the relative size of historical figures in an ancient painting may provide clues for an inquiry into the social structure of the society). Evidence can also be used to help construct a historical narrative.

export industries

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


Cost or benefit associated with the production or consumption of goods and services that affects the wellbeing of third parties or society more generally.

factors of production

Resources used in the production of goods and services classified as land, labour, capital and enterprise.


The visible elements of a place or landscape, classified as natural (e.g. rivers, hills), managed (e.g. parks and farms) and constructed (e.g. roads and buildings). This term is used in early primary, but is later replaced by the term ‘characteristics’, which includes both the physical and human elements of a place.


A principle of government that defines the relationship between the central government at the national level and its constituent units at the regional, state or local levels. In Australia, federalism is the governmental relationship and division of powers between the Australian Government and the states and territories.


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

geographic diversity

In the Western Australian curriculum refers to a study of the diverse physical features (e.g. climate, vegetation, landforms, water bodies) and cultural or human features (e.g. demographics, landuse) of places.

geographic information system (GIS)

A geographic information system (GIS) is 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 processes

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

geomorphic hazard

Geomorphic hazards are those originating from the lithosphere, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and mass movement (landslides or avalanches).

geomorphic landscape

A geomorphic landscape is 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.

global citizens

Those who understand their rights and responsibilities at a global level; that is, a personal identity which transcends geographical and political borders, with responsibilities and rights that are derived from being human. However, these rights and responsibilities do not have the legal authority or sanctions that those conferred by a nation have.


Tangible items that satisfy needs and wants – they can be seen and touched.


The process and rules by which decisions are made and implemented within entities, such as national and state governments, corporations and other organisations.


A body of people who have the authority to control or govern a community, state or country.


The representative of the monarch in the Australian jurisdiction according to the Australian Constitution and so is head of state. Although the constitution grants the governor-general a wide range of powers, in practice the conventions of the Westminster system are followed so the governor-general acts, with rare exceptions, only on the advice of the prime minister and government.

gross domestic product (GDP)

The total value of all goods and services produced in a country in a period of time.


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

human development index

Is a tool developed by the United Nations to measure and rank countries' levels of social and economic development based on four criteria: Life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and gross national income per capita.

human rights

The rights that come from being human. That is, the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty; freedom of thought and expression; and equality before the law.

human wellbeing

The 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.


An idea or explanation, formulated on limited evidence, that can be used as a starting point for an investigation.


A person’s conception and expression of their individuality or association with a group. In this curriculum, identity refers to a person's sense of belonging to a culture or to a state or nation, a region or at a global level. It is a feeling one shares with a group of people, regardless of one's citizenship status.


Imperialism is the process whereby rule or control is established and maintained over other peoples and nations.

independent representative

An individual member of parliament (also known as an independent), who does not belong to any political party.


A period in history defined by the introduction of machinery to produce large quantities of goods using fuel-based technology. Industrialisation involves a division of labour and the development of factories and cities.


Generally refers to changing or creating more effective processes, products and ideas, and can increase the likelihood of a business succeeding. Businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance. For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving your existing services. Innovation can be a catalyst for the growth and success of your business, and help you adapt and grow in the marketplace.

inquiry process

The process of gathering information from primary and/or secondary sources for an investigation. Inquiry methodologies include the skills needed to formulate questions; initiate, plan and implement an inquiry; locate, collect and analyse sources; and use evidence to develop an informed explanation or argument.

inter-regional transfer of water

The 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.


The concept of interconnection emphasises that no object of geographical study can be viewed in isolation. It is about the ways that geographical phenomena are connected to each other through environmental processes; the movement of people; flows of trade and investment; the purchase of goods and services; cultural influences; the exchange of ideas and information; political power and international agreements. Interconnections can be complex, reciprocal or interdependent, and have a strong influence on the characteristics of places. An understanding of the significance of interconnection leads to holistic thinking and helps students to see the various aspects of geography as connected rather than separate bodies of knowledge.


The joint dependence between participants in an economy; that is, the reliance of consumers, workers, businesses and governments on each other. In modern economies, people tend to specialise in the production of a good or service, and trade that item for another which they could not provide or produce for themselves.

internal migration

The 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.


In History, an interpretation is an explanation of the past, for example about a specific person, event or development. There may be more than one interpretation of a particular aspect of the past because historians may have used different sources, asked different questions and held different points of view about the topic.

just-in-time inventory systems

Refers to only producing products in response to specific customer orders.


The quality of being just. The concept of justice is based upon many differing viewpoints but ultimately states that people and society should behave in a way that is fair, equal and balanced for all.

KWL chart

A graphic organiser that is typically divided into three columns, which are titled: know, want and learn. The letters KWL are an acronym for what the students already know, want to know and what they have learned.

land and water degradation

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


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


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

language group

Language groups differentiate indigenous Australian tribes. Language is not just about communication but also defines land boundaries, kinship and law. Before colonisation, there were thought to be more than 250 Indigenous languages.


Refers to the system of rules which a particular country or community recognises as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties and sanctions.

liberal democracy

An approach to political arrangements that takes the view that the ideal political system should combine majority rule by the people with the protection of the political, legal and social rights of individuals and minority groups.


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.

living standards

The amount of wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities that a particular individual, society or country has.


The local area is defined as the area around the 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.


A political doctrine that derives its meaning from political philosophy, political behaviour and political morality, not from constitutions or other laws. It concerns the authorisation to act in a particular way on a public issue given by the electorate to its representative or government.

market economy

The system that coordinates the production and distribution of goods and services using markets.


The organised exchange of goods, services or resources between buyers and sellers.


Refers to the forms of communication between a source and receivers including television, radio, print media, digital and the internet as well as forms of social media. The term usually refers to mass media and the ability of media to inform and influence people. Media are key players in democracies where citizens need to be informed, influenced and open to a diversity of views.


Is a term used to describe the period of history between the end of the Roman Empire in the west, in the fifth century CE, to the end of the Renaissance, around 1500 CE.


As defined in the Western Australian Curriculum: History, the ‘modern’ period covers history from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1750 CE to the present.


A form of government in which the supreme authority is actually or nominally ruled by monarch, such as a king or a queen. The monarch usually holds the power by birth right and not merit. Australia is a constitutional monarchy, where the monarch’s power is limited by a constitution.


Refers to a society characterised by support for or free activity of religions, within the bounds of the law.


Refers to the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, such as a state or nation.


In History, a narrative is a way of making sense of the past, based on a selection of events. There are different types of narrative, such as accounts of the past that relate a story (for example personal, fictitious) and historical recounts (such as the course of events during the World War II).


Nationalism is the feeling of belonging to a people, a place and a common culture. When a nation becomes the primary loyalty, it gives rise to movements of national independence.

natural vegetation

The vegetation that has evolved in an area over time.


A good or service that consumers consider necessary to maintain their standard of living.

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-government organisation (NGO)

A group that is organised at a local, national or international level around a common interest and on a non-profit, voluntary basis. NGOs operate independently of government mostly, but when funded by government still maintain their independence.

not-for-profit business

A business that uses surplus funds to achieve its goals rather than distribute these funds to the owners. These often exist in the form of charities, service organisations and clubs.

nutrient cycles

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


Business processes that were originally performed in-house now moved overseas.

opinion polls

Is an assessment of public opinion by questioning a representative sample, especially as the basis for forecasting the results of voting.

opportunity cost

What you have to forgo if you choose to do A rather than B; the value of the next best alternative that is foregone whenever a choice is made.

oral histories

A person’s spoken recollections of the past, recorded through an audio or video interview.

outline map

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

outsourcing (outsource labour)

Any task that could be performed by employees within an organisation being contracted out to a third party.


In history an overview provides a conceptual and chronological framework for understanding a particular historical period. It can consist of key features, events, developments and broad patterns of historical change. An overview provides a context for a depth study.


A system of government in which power is in the hands of the people, who exercise that power through elected representatives in parliament. This is based on the idea that parliament has supreme or sovereign power.


The way in which individuals as good citizens take part in and make a contribution to society.


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


A person’s perspective is their point of view; the position from which they see and understand the world and events going on around them. People in the past may have had different points of view about a particular event, depending on their age, gender, social position and their beliefs and values. Historians also have perspectives and this can influence their interpretation of the past. In Geography, perspective also refers to the view presented in a photograph or map, for example an aerial view in a photograph and an oblique view in a sketch map can be used to represent different perspectives of the same landscape.


Places play a fundamental role in human life. The world is made up of places, from those with largely natural features, for example, an area of rainforest, to those with largely constructed features, such as the centre of a large city. They are where we live and grow up. Our most common relationships are likely to be with people in the same place. The environmental and human qualities of places influence our lives and life opportunities. Places are sites of biodiversity; locations for economic activity; centres of decision –making and administration; sites for the transmission and exchange of knowledge and ideas; meeting places for social interaction, sources of identity, belonging and enjoyment; and areas of natural beauty and wonder. They are where major events occur, from natural disasters and financial crises to sporting events. Places can also be laboratories for the comparative study of the relationships between processes and phenomena, because the uniqueness of each place means that similar processes and influences can produce different outcomes in different places. The importance of Country/Place to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is an example of the interaction between culture and identity, and shows how places can be invested with spiritual and other significance..

political party

An organisation that represents a group of people with similar political philosophies or ideas. The aim of a political party is to get its members elected to Parliament so that it can hold political power and their ideas can influence the way Australia is governed.


A precedent is a principle established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.

preferential voting

A system of voting to rank candidates in order of preference. It is necessary for a winning candidate to achieve an absolute majority (50 per cent plus one). If no candidate achieves an absolute majority, a candidate with the fewest number of first preferences is excluded from the count, and his or her votes are distributed among the remaining candidates according to second preferences. This process is continued until one candidate achieves an absolute majority. It is the dominant form of voting in Australian politics (as compared with simple majority systems of voting).

presumption of innocence

The presumption of innocence imposes on the prosecution the burden of proving the charge and guarantees that no guilt can be presumed until the charge has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

prevention, mitigation and preparedness

Prevention and mitigation are 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 the 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

In History, primary sources are objects and documents created or written during the time being investigated, for example during an event or very soon after it. Examples of primary sources include official documents, such as laws and treaties; personal documents, such as diaries and letters; photographs; film and documentaries. These original, first-hand accounts are analysed by the historian to answer questions about the past. A primary source can also be unprocessed, original materials collected by the students, for example, field notes from observations, measurements taken from experiments, or responses received from a survey or questionnaire.


Individuals and businesses involved in the production of goods and services.


In Economics this refers to the efficiency with which an economy employs resources to produce goods and services. In Geography it includes the amount and rate of production which occurs in an ecosystem.

proportional representation

The representation of parties, groups or individuals in a legislature in proportion to the number of votes they receive in an election. In Australia proportional representation describes the way candidates are elected in multi-member electorates, such as the Senate.

quality of life index

Is a method used to measure the quality of life in a country and is based upon the average of three statistics: basic literacy rate, infant mortality and life expectancy.


Information or data that is capable of being measured and expressed in numerical terms, for example the numbers of women who arrived on the First Fleet, crime rates for local government areas.


The principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection. In Australia, a referendum is a vote of the Australian electors on a proposed change to the Constitution by the Commonwealth Parliament that must be approved by a majority of the aggregate of all voters from each state and territory, and also by a majority of voters in a majority (four) of the six states.


A region is an area in which the various parts have something in common that distinguishes them from neighbouring regions. Regions can be divisions of a nation, for example, the Wheat belt of Western; Australia, or larger than a nation, for example, Southeast Asia, or a climatic zone. The latter are called ‘world regions’ in the curriculum.


A principle, rule or law that is designed to control or govern an activity, organisation or system.

relative location

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

remote Places

Refers to places that are distant from major population and economic centres.


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

representative democracy

A system of government in which electors choose representatives to a parliament to make laws on their behalf.

resource allocation

Limited resources are assigned (allocated) to produce goods and services to meet a society’s needs and wants.


The term resource has different meanings and implications based on the context and time. A resource can be both natural and made items that we value and use to produce goods and services that satisfy needs and wants. Resources can be classified as renewable (rainwater), recyclable (forests, fish) and non-renewable (fossil fuels). The four economic resources (factors of production) are land, labour, capital and enterprise. Production usually requires the combination of resources. See environmental resources in this glossary.


The total amount of money a company, organisation or government receives or collects.

rights and responsibilities

In Civics and Citizenship refers to the entitlements and obligations that are associated with citizenship. Rights and responsibilities are a cornerstone of modern democracies. While there are many rights a citizen may enjoy (freedom of speech, the right to vote) there are also responsibilities of citizenship (to vote in elections, pay taxes, perform jury service).

rule of law

The legal principle that decisions by government are made according to established principles and that all citizens are subject to the law and equal before the law. Embedded within the rule of law is the idea that people accept and follow, but also change as needed, laws as agreed by the political process and upheld by independent courts.


Guidelines for behaviour; they are a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure within a particular area of activity, for example, school rules; rules of cricket. Rules are usually developed and set by people who have power and authority to create and enforce them.

satellite image

Digital images captured by satellites 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.


The concept of scale is used to analyse phenomena and look for explanations at different spatial levels, from the personal to the local, regional, national and global. Different factors can be involved in explaining phenomena at different scales, for example, in studies of vegetation, climate is the main factor at the global scale but soil and drainage may be the main factors at the local scale. Deciding on the appropriate scale for an inquiry is therefore important. Scale is also involved when geographers look for explanations or outcomes at different levels. Local events can have global outcomes, for example, the effects of local actions, such as permanent vegetation removal, on global climate. National and regional changes can also have local outcomes, as in the effects of economic policies on local economies. Scale, however, may be perceived differently by diverse groups of people and organisations, and can be used to elevate or diminish the significance of an issue, for example, by labelling it as local or global.


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

secondary sources

Secondary sources are materials that have been collected, processed, interpreted and published by others, for example, census data, documentaries, newspaper articles, textbooks and images; or information in a published report, or from a website. In History, secondary sources are 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.

secret ballot

Is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. On Election Day in Australia voters are provided with a private polling booth to complete their ballot paper to ensure the secrecy of their vote.


Relating to the 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.

separation of powers

The acknowledged division between the executive, legislature (parliament) and judiciary. These separations act as checks and balances on each other to prevent excessive concentration of power in one group.


An action that is provided by one person or business to another in order to satisfy a want (e.g. doctor’s appointment, car repair).


Any type of place where people live on a permanent basis. Two major categories of settlements are rural and urban. Rural settlements are those where people are often involved in primary industries and located in country areas. Urban settlements are those where people mainly work in secondary and tertiary industries.

settlement pattern

The 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.


Significance is the importance that is assigned to an issue or site, or a particular aspect of the past, for example an event, or the contribution of an individual. Deciding on significance involves making judgements that depend on perspective and purpose. Significance may vary over time and from group to group. What was seen as significant in the past may not be considered important today, and what is significant for one group today may not have be significant for other groups.

social cohesion

The ability of a society’s members to cooperate in the community, often demonstrated through common values, beliefs or behaviours. Social cohesion allows individuals to see themselves as part of a greater whole and creates a sense of belonging.

social justice

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


Any written or non-written materials that can be used to investigate the past or to provide information or data, for example coins, photographs, newspapers, letters, surveys, buildings, field observations, or documentaries. A source becomes ‘evidence’ if it is of value to a particular inquiry. Sources can be either primary or secondary.


The concept of space includes location, spatial distribution and the organisation of space.

  • Location plays an important role in determining the environmental characteristics of a place, the viability of an economic activity or the opportunities open to an individual, but the effects of location on human activities also depend on the infrastructure and technology that link places, and the way these are managed by businesses and governments.
  • Spatial distribution, the second element in the concept of space, underlies much geographical study. The geographical characteristics of places have distributions across space that form patterns, and the analysis of these patterns contributes to an understanding of the causes of these characteristics and of the form they take in particular places. Spatial distributions also have significant environmental, economic, social and political consequences. Students learn to identify and evaluate these consequences and the policies that could be adopted to respond to them.
  • The organisation of space concerns how it is perceived, structured, organised and managed by people, and how this creates particular types of spaces. Early primary school students can investigate how the space within their classroom and their school grounds is organised for different purposes. Older students can investigate how urban planning organises the environment, creates commercial, industrial, residential and green spaces, and manages the flows of goods and people between spaces.

spatial association

Similarity in the 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 the operation of atmospheric, hydrologic, geomorphic, biological, socioeconomic or political processes.

spatial distribution

The arrangement of particular phenomena or activities across the surface of the Earth.

spatial technologies

Any software or hardware that interacts with real world locations. The use of spatial technologies forms the basis systems (GIS) and satellite images are the most commonly used spatial technologies to visualise, manipulate, analyse, display and record spatial data.

spatial variations

The difference or variation (in terms of population, population density, GDP, life expectancy) over an area of the Earth’s surface.


A method of production where a business or area focuses on the production of a limited scope of products or services in order to gain greater degrees of productive efficiency within the entire system of businesses or areas.

statute (statutory law)

Written law (initially in the form of a Bill) that has been passed through all stages by Parliament, has received the monarch’s (or monarch’s representative such as Governor-General or Governor) assent and has been proclaimed.


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


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

supply chain

A sequence of processes, that includes a network of organisations, people and activities, involved in the production and distribution of a good or service. The supply chain transforms resources and raw materials into a finished product for the consumer.

sustainability index

It is about measuring our stocks of social and human, natural and economic 'capital' and ensuring that the resources inherited by future generations allow for the same (or greater) levels of wellbeing as enjoyed by Australians today.


The concept of sustainability is about the capacity of the environment to continue to support our lives and the lives of other living creatures into the future. Sustainability is both a goal and a way of thinking about how to progress towards that goal. Progress towards environmental sustainability depends on the maintenance or restoration of the environmental functions that sustain all life and human wellbeing (economic and social).


Allows for the continued use of the environment in such a way as not to harm it or to reduce its ability to provide for future generations.

sustainable development

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. Biophysical systems include humans and their activities and impacts.

thematic map

Thematic maps portray a specific type of information, for example, rainfall, transport routes, climatic zones or population distribution.

three levels of government

Australia has three levels of government. The three levels are:

  • federal (or national) Parliament, in Canberra
  • state/territory parliaments, in each state/territory capital city
  • local councils (also called shires or municipalities), across the nation.

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.


The activity of buying, selling or exchanging goods and/or services between people and/or countries.


A sacrifice that must be made when choosing how to use resources. The preferred (next best) alternative is known as the opportunity cost.


Areas which have a high concentration of buildings and infrastructure. Predominantly towns and cities.

urban concentration

The percentage of the urban population of a country or region living in the largest cities.


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


Someone who willingly works or performs a service, for the benefit of others, without financial payment.


A means of formally expressing opinion or choice on an issue or electing a representative. The term is frequently understood in relation to government as a formal expression of preference for a candidate for office or for a proposed resolution of an issue within a parliament.


A good or service that is desired in order to provide satisfaction to the user, but which is not necessary for survival or to meet the basic standard of living in a community.


The conditions of the atmosphere at a particular place and time.


An overall measure of quality of life for individuals and society.

Westminster system

The process of parliamentary government that evolved in England based on a government from the democratically elected lower house; a mainly ceremonial sovereign/head of state; a head of government who commands a majority in the lower house parliament; an executive/cabinet composed of members of parliament; an independent civil service and the rule of law.

work (paid and unpaid)

The labour, task or duty that is a means of livelihood. Work may be paid, in that the worker receives money Unpaid work is labour done without the worker receiving payment