Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Alternative perspectives

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content descriptions addressed in the illustration are:

  • The classification of environmental resources and the forms that water takes as a resource (ACHGK037)
  • The nature of water scarcity and ways of overcoming it, including studies drawn from Australia and West Asia and/or North Africa (ACHGK040)
  • The economic, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic value of water for people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and peoples of the Asia region (ACHGK041)

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). 

Learning goals

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • identifying and classifying a range of perspectives related to a selected water-based environmental issue
  • working collaboratively with others to achieve a consensus
  • communicating a considered point of view in both an oral and written form
  • reflecting on ways in which individuals and groups can influence the decision-making processes of government.

Geographical understanding and context

In geography, students learn that the environment is the product of a variety of processes, that it supports and enriches human and other life, that it provides both opportunities and constraints on human settlement and activities, and that people perceive environmental resources in different ways.

A perspective is a way of viewing the world, the people in it, their relationship with each other and environments. This means that people will describe and explain geographical issues, features and processes differently. The perspectives, or points of view, a person holds will be influenced by a range of factors. Some of the most important influencing factors are age, gender, level of education, cultural and ethnic background, and socioeconomic status (class). 

People may, for example, debate how to best respond to or address a particular environmental or social issue. In other words, they will have different perspectives or points of view on the best way to use resources or manage an environment. Disagreement is healthy as long as people respect the rights of others to express views that we might not necessarily agree with. Being able to identify and evaluate such points of view greatly enhances our geographical inquiry skills and our own decision-making processes.

Teachers typically encourage the consideration of a range of perspectives on geographical issues in order to:

  • enhance students' conceptual understanding
  • promote the development of critical-thinking skills
  • inculcate values and attitudes such as empathy, tolerance, inclusion, integrity, respect, care and compassion, and social justice. 

The learning and teaching strategies used to build such capacities include: 

  • hypotheticals
  • simulations
  • debates and discussions
  • role-plays
  • problem-solving activities. 

In each of these strategies students can be asked to engage with geographical issues and phenomena from a range of perspectives, 'viewing points' or points of view. 

In this illustration students have the opportunity to explore a range of perspectives related to the management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Teaching approaches

This illustration is divided into a series of sequential learning experiences, each dependent on the knowledge, understandings and skills developed in the preceding activity. It is assumed that students will be undertaking this sequence of activities as part of a unit of study focusing on water scarcity and management in Australia. 

1. Introduction – establishing context

To further contextualise student learning, a resource Murray-Darling overview (PDF, 345 KB) is provided. Ask your class to read through the document. Use questioning to test for understanding.

If time permits you might like to study the Murray-Darling Basin in more detail. You can do this by accessing the website of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. The site enables students to explore the Basin, study the Basin Plan and investigate approaches to water management in the Basin. There are a number of maps which will be of interest to students on this website, including water in storages – whole of Basin, which is updated weekly. 
 

2. Individual work – analysis

Ask your students to read though the list the statements provided in Murray-Darling Basin Plan: A range of perspectives (PDF, 331 KB). Once they have completed this task, ask them to list the statements that are in favour of the Australian Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Make a separate list of the statements that are not in favour of the government’s proposal. 
 

3. Small group work – discussion

The next step involves your students working in groups of four or five. Ask them to:

  • discuss the different statements about the proposal
  • reach agreement on what they think should happen
  • prepare to defend their group’s viewpoint when they report back to the class. 
     

4. Class debate

Conduct a class debate on the topic 'The Basin Plan should be accepted and implemented'. At the end of the debate, conduct a secret ballot to determine whether the class will recommend that the plan should go ahead. 
 

5. Individual work – exposition

Ask students to determine which point of view they personally agree with, and write an exposition outlining the arguments they would use to justify their position. An Exposition scaffold (PDF, 287 KB) is provided.
 

6. Small group work – brainstorm

Working in groups of four or five, ask students to brainstorm the strategies or methods they could use to influence public opinion and the government's decision-making processes. Each group should share their group’s list with the rest of the class. 
 

7. Class role-play

Have your class role-play one of the methods or strategies identified in Task 6. 

What you need

Access to the Internet (optional).

Murray-Darling overview (PDF, 345 KB).

Murray-Darling Basin Plan: A range of perspectives (PDF, 331 KB).

Exposition scaffold (PDF, 287 KB).

Time allocation: 6–7 lessons.

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum.

English

  • Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, selecting aspects of subject matter and particular language, visual, and audio features to convey information and ideas (ACELY1725)
  • Identify and explore ideas and viewpoints about events, issues and characters represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1619)
     

Mathematics

  • Identify and investigate issues involving numerical data collected from primary and secondary sources (ACMSP169)
     

Science 

  • Some of Earth’s resources are renewable, but others are non-renewable (ACSSU116)
  • Water is an important resource that cycles through the environment (ACSSU222)
  • Science and technology contribute to finding solutions to a range of contemporary issues; these solutions may impact on other areas of society and involve ethical considerations (ACSHE120)
  • Science understanding influences the development of practices in areas of human activity such as industry, agriculture and marine and terrestrial resource management (ACSHE121)
     

History

  • The physical features of ancient Egypt (such as the River Nile) and how they influenced the civilisation that developed there (ACDSEH002)
  • The physical features of India (such as fertile river plains) and how they influenced the civilisation that developed there (ACDSEH006)
  • The physical features of China (such as the Yellow River) and how they influenced the civilisation that developed there (ACDSEH005)

Source: Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Resources

Websites:

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

Australian Government. Murray-Darling Basin Authority. Retrieved January 2013, from: http://www.mdba.gov.au/.

All other required resources are listed in the 'what you need' section above.