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NSW Syllabuses


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aerial photograph

Image taken from the air showing characteristics of an area. It may be at an oblique angle (slanting angle) or a vertical angle (straight down).

agricultural production

Using the land to produce food crops, non-food crops, industrial products and livestock.

agricultural yields

The agricultural output per hectare of land eg crop yields, milk yields.


Height of a feature above sea level.

area reference

A four-digit reference, using easting and northing grid lines, to locate an area on a topographic map.


The direction a slope faces.

atmospheric hazard

Hazard event originating in the atmosphere eg storms, tropical cyclones.

augmented reality

An enhanced image or environment as viewed on a screen or other display, produced by overlaying computer-generated images, sounds or other data on a real-world environment.


A compass point measured in degrees from 0 to 360.


The variety of living organisms and the environments they form.


Fuel produced using plant material eg ethanol, biogas.


A major terrestrial vegetation community eg a tropical forest, a temperate grassland or a desert.

biophysical processes

Interconnected sequences that form and transform natural environments in a cause-and-effect relationship eg erosion, deposition, soil formation, nutrient cycling.

cadastral map

A map showing property boundaries.


A map in which the size of countries is adjusted to illustrate the distribution of a feature or statistic eg population size, hunger, poverty.

cartographic conventions

Accepted practices associated with constructing and interpreting maps eg using a border, orientation or compass point, legend or key, title, scale, giving latitude readings before longitude etc.

catchment area

The area drained by a river or water body. Also known as river basin.


The tangible and intangible elements of a place or environment.

choropleth map

A map with shading to provide quantitative information about different areas or regions eg population density.


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

climate change

A long-term change in regional or global climate patterns eg annual precipitation, frequency of weather events.

climate graph

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

climatic zones

Refers to areas of the Earth that have similar temperatures. The major zones are hot, temperate and polar and are generally 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.


An instrument for measuring inclination or slope.

contour lines

Lines on a map that indicate altitude.


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.

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.

cultural groups

People belonging to or identifying with a nationality, ethnic group, religion or social group with a distinct culture.


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.


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


When a hazard results in extensive damage to people, places and environments.


The living and non-living elements of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. Where unqualified, it includes human changes to the Earth's surface eg croplands, planted forests, buildings and roads.

environmental functions

Processes of an ecosystem that supports human life and economic activity.

environmental quality

The characteristics of an environment or place that affect people's physical and mental health and quality of life eg the extent of air and water pollution, noise, access to open space, traffic volumes, the visual effects of buildings and roads.

environmental worldview

A person's view of the relationship between humans and nature eg human-centred worldview: humans are separate from nature and any environmental problems can be solved by technology; earth-centred worldview: humans are a part of, and dependent on, nature and have to work with nature to resolve environmental problems.

ethical protocols

The application of fundamental ethical principles when undertaking research and collecting information eg confidentiality, informed consent, citation and integrity of data.


The tangible elements of a place or environment.

field sketches

Annotated line drawings created to record features of an environment during fieldwork activities.

flowline map

Map showing the flows of people, goods, information or ideas between places.

food security

When all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain healthy and active lives.

geographic information systems (GIS)

Systems for storing, managing, analysing and portraying spatial data.

geographical challenges

Issues and problems arising from interactions between people, places and environments that threaten sustainability eg biodiversity loss, food insecurity, inequality.

geographical data

Quantitative or qualitative information about people, places and environments.

geographical processes

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

geographical questions

Questions that inquire into the spatial and environmental dimensions of places and environments.

geomorphic hazard

Hazard events originating in the lithosphere eg volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and mass movement (landslides or avalanches).

geomorphic processes

Natural processes that transform the lithosphere to create distinctive landscapes and landforms eg erosion, weathering, tectonic activity.

global positioning systems (GPS)

Navigation systems that provide location and time information anywhere there is a line of sight to GPS satellites.


The steepness of a slope.

grid reference

A six-digit reference, using easting and northing grid lines, to locate the exact location of a place or feature on a topographic map.


The water located beneath Earth's surface filling the spaces between grains of soil or rock. It slowly flows through aquifers; it connects with rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands; it feeds trees and vegetation.

human wellbeing

The quality of life of a population.

hydrologic hazard

Hazard events originating in the hydrosphere from changes to the water cycle eg floods and droughts.

internal migration

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

international migration

The voluntary or forced movement of people between countries.

isoline map

A map which has lines joining places having the same value of any selected element eg rainfall.

land degradation

Degradation of the health of land resources through human actions in ways that threaten their ability to maintain their environmental functions eg salinity, accelerated soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and habitats.


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


A landscape is an area, created by a combination of geological, geomorphological, biological and cultural layers that have evolved over time eg riverine, coastal or urban landscapes.

large-scale map

A map that shows a small area of the Earth's surface in large detail eg a suburb where each centimetre on the map scale represents a small distance on the land.


Distance from the equator measured in degrees north or south.


An assessment of what a place is like to live in, using particular criteria such as environmental quality, safety, access to shops and services and cultural activities.

liveability criteria

Characteristics used to assess the liveability of places or their contribution to people's quality of life eg safety, healthcare, education, infrastructure and environment.

liveability index

A measure of liveability/quality of life based on a set of criteria and used to rank places. Used principally to rank the world's largest cities by the quality of life they offer.

local relief

The difference in altitude between the highest and lowest points in a small geographical area.


Degrees east or west of Greenwich.

map references

The use of letters and numbers to locate a place on a map which has grid squares.


Cities with a population greater than 10 million.

natural hazard

When the forces of nature combine to become destructive and have potential to damage the environment and endanger communities eg bushfires, tropical cyclones, floods, earthquakes.

natural resources

Resources provided by nature. Resources can be classified as renewable, non-renewable and continuous. Also known as environmental resources.

natural vegetation

The vegetation that has evolved in an area over time.


People's assessment of places and environments.


A graph using picture symbols to represent statistical information.

pictorial map

A map using illustrations to represent information on a map.

political map

A map showing territorial boundaries between or within countries eg states and territories.

population density

The number of people in an area of land usually expressed as a number per square kilometre.

population profile

A graph showing the age and gender composition of a population. Also known as population pyramid.


Forms of water falling from the atmosphere to the Earth's surface eg rain, hail, snow, sleet.

précis map

A simple sketch map, drawn from a topographic map or photograph, showing the key patterns and features of an area by omitting minor details.

primary data

Original materials collected by someone eg field notes, measurements, responses to a survey or questionnaire.

qualitative methods

Explanatory and interpretive methods eg participant observation, focus group discussion or interviews, which are used to gather qualitative data.

quantitative methods

Statistical and other methods used to analyse quantitative data.

relative location

Location relative to other places eg the distance of a town from other towns.

relief map

A three-dimensional map showing the shape of the land and distinctive landforms (terrain) or a two-dimensional map representing 3D terrain.

remote sensing

The collection of information about a geographical feature from a distance eg via aircraft or satellite.

rotational grazing

A process whereby livestock are strategically moved to fresh paddocks, or partitioned pasture areas, to allow vegetation in previously grazed pastures to regenerate.

scatter graph

A graph which plots the relationship between two variables eg rainfall and height above sea level.

seasonal calendar

The classification of the weeks or months of the year into seasons eg spring, summer, autumn and winter, or wet and dry, or the classifications of Aboriginal cultures.

secondary information sources

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

settlement pattern

The spatial distribution of different types of human settlement eg isolated houses, towns, cities.

sketch map

A labelled drawing outlining the main geographical features of a place.

small-scale map

A map showing a large area of the Earth's surface with little detail eg world map where one centimetre on the map scale represents a large distance on the land.

social connectedness

A measure of the number and strength of people's social relationships with other people in the same place, or in other places via face-to-face connections or electronic methods. The opposite of good social connections is social isolation, or loneliness.

spatial distribution

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

spatial variation

The difference or variation in natural and human features over an area of the Earth's surface eg water, population, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), life expectancy.

synoptic chart

A map showing atmospheric conditions at the Earth's surface at a point in time eg air pressure, winds, precipitation. Also known as a weather map.

thematic map

A map portraying a specific type of information eg 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.


The relief and configuration of a landscape, including its natural and human features.

urban concentration

The proportion of a country or region's population living in urban areas.


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

vegetation identification chart

A pictorial resource used to identify plant types and biomes during fieldwork.

water cycle processes

The physical changes to water that change its state and geographical location eg evaporation, precipitation.

water scarcity

The lack of sufficient available water resources to meet demand.


The condition of the atmosphere at a point in time eg temperature, humidity.