Mapping the Antipodes

7th June 1996 at 01:00
Paul Guinness surveys a new exploration of Australia THE AUSTRALIA SERIES. A Geography of Queensland By Ian Wilson A Geography of New South Wales By Jenny Preston A Geography of Victoria By Raymond Pask A Geography of South Australia By Mark Manuel Cambridge University Press Pounds 10.95 and Pounds 11.95 each Age range 11 plus

In the Australia series, each of the states is studied from the point of view of the following themes: Environments, People, Places, Resources, Leisure and Tourism. The only exception to this rule is Victoria, which for some unexplained reason does not have a chapter on leisure and tourism.

An attractive double-column layout is used with a good selection of colour photographs along with clearly produced maps and the expected range of other cartographic techniques. Each chapter is accompanied by a comprehensive list of questions. Although using a thematic framework, each book gives generally good spatial coverage to the state in question through its use of case studies, maps, data and photographs.

Queensland is presented as a state renowned for its natural wonders, but faced with the problem of growing population pressures within a delicately balanced environmental system. Queensland has always been in a state of change but now change must be carefully managed.

This book adopts much more of an enquiry approach than the other titles with a higher tasks to text ratio. Apart from sequences of questions, research topics for individual and group work appear in every chapter. However the greater focus on perceptions, attitudes and values makes it more of a book for pupils living in Queensland than a resource to be widely used elsewhere.

Biodiversity is set as a key theme but surprisingly little information is provided on what the author classes as "three of the world's most significant natural environments - great sand islands, tropical rainforests, and coral reefs". These are presented mainly as research topics after extremely brief introductions.

There is an excellent urban section, emphasising that by the end of the decade the cities of Brisbane and Gold Coast will join to form a long thin urbanised area some 150 km long, housing almost four million people. Detailed examination of urban renewal, suburban growth and overall planning strategies are supported by appropriate data bases. Sound analyses of the major hazards affecting Queensland are accompanied by a wide variety of resource items. Other highlights of this book include the growth and impact of tourism and aboriginal issues.

New South Wales is seen as a stepping stone to studying Australia as a whole. The early focus is on environmental issues and hazards, clearly presented and supported by a good range of resources. The plight of aboriginal people is given only brief coverage and the section on Sydney could be more detailed in terms of maps and data to illustrate intra-urban contrasts. The opportunity to match the sophistication of the Brisbsane study cited above has unfortunately been lost. Other case studies of particular interest are the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

South Australia provides comprehensive spatial coverage of the state with clear identification and analysis of a wide range of contrasting environments. The investigation of aboriginal peoples, hazards and Adelaide are particularly good with the maps and aerial photographs of the latter providing a very rich resource indeed. One puzzle is that in the back cover synopsis the concept of the Multi-Function Polis is cited as an element of change but this is not picked up in the text.

Variation is again a key theme in Victoria with landscapes changing from snow-covered alps to desert and from large bustling cities to isolated wilderness. Good overall coverage is highlighted by strong sections on the processes of landscape change, population and Melbourne.

While this series has no obvious place as a whole in the national curriculum, there is a wealth of useful case study material which could be employed from key stage 3 to A-level. One fruitful approach might be to group studies in particular themes such as natural hazards, tourism and urbanisation. Not surprisingly the series seems to have been priced as a departmental resource and school library purchase. Forthcoming titles cover Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Paul Guinness is head of geography at King's College School, Wimbledon

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