Illustration 1: Managing coastlines

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography and (its various HASS-based iterations) content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The human-induced environmental changes that challenge sustainability

Learning goals

Students explore the unique coastal environments around the world and the ways they have been used and managed by people over time. They explore a variety of sources (including maps and digital images) in a range of locations, and analyse and evaluate human impacts and the sustainability of environments.

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • observing and identifying (from a variety of digital images) coastal types, landforms and human use
  • analysing the physical processes operating along coastlines
  • identifying the types of landforms found on coastlines (sandy and rocky coastlines)
  • understanding the impact of human activities at the coast
  • explaining the need for management
  • evaluating the effectiveness of different management strategies using the principles of sustainable environment.

Geographical understanding and context

Communities around the world live on the coast for a variety of reasons. This puts pressure on the natural features and processes, and affects the sustainability of the coastal environment. Human-induced changes have created uniquely constructed environments, which need to be managed carefully.

The focus of this illustration of practice is an examination of the processes shaping coastal environments, and the nature and extent of human-induced changes. It also explores the ways in which a coastal environment can be managed in ways that promote sustainability.

Teaching approaches

  • Considering coastlines

The key stimulus material for this study is a series of photographs in Coastline images (PPT) depicting a variety of coastal locations. Ask students to:

    • identify the key features
    • analyse and evaluate the impact of human activities and structures
    • consider the implications for a sustainable future.
  • Exploring coastline management

Managing our coastlines (PDF) provides several images of a coastline before European settlement, immediately after settlement and in the present. Ask your students to consider the range of questions in this resource to develop their understanding of how the coastal environments depicted have changed over time.

Following this class discussion and review of the images, consider a range of coastal types depicted. Categorise the images into:

  • the physical coastline – identify the landforms and processes operating
  • our use of the coastline – identify the lifestyle, social activities, built environment and how the coast has changed over time
  • the human impact – assess and evaluate the significance (low to high) from complete devastation to careful management, non-sustainable to sustainable
  • our management of the coastline – what do the images indicate about the management of the pristine coasts and those with significant changes?

To assist with these discussions students could also view the image slide show Managing our coast (duration, 03:21) which explores some of the issues and management strategies related to the sustainable management of coasts.

  • Extension activity

Locate other images or sources that highlight the issues and management of coastal regions. The potential for developing rich assessment activities is extensive – movies, slide shows, web pages, role-playing and fieldwork are just some possibilities.

Potential for fieldwork: Any section of coastline may be examined in the manner outlined above. Most students are familiar with a coastline or perhaps live close enough to undertake fieldwork.

What you need

Access to the Internet and YouTube.
Coastline images (PPT), provided as stimulus material.
Managing our coastlines (PDF), which provides a range of images and questions to facilitate discussion.
Managing our coasts (duration, 03:21). The image slide show highlights the types, changes and management of some coastal locations.
Time frame: This could be a stimulus task for several lessons or an extensive program covering 4 to 6 weeks including a field trip and field report. Considering physical landforms could form a significant study in itself.

Curriculum connections

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


  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements to influence a course of action
  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, confidently, flexibly and imaginatively to create, edit and publish texts, considering the identified purpose and the characteristics of the user


  • Plan, select and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods


  • The intensification of environmental effects in the twentieth century as a result of population increase, urbanisation, increasing industrial production and trade
  • Responses of governments, including the Australian government, and international organisations to environmental threats since the 1960s (including deforestation and climate change)


Books and articles:
Manuel, M., Smith, R. & McElroy, B. (1995). Coastal conflicts. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
Harvey, N. & Caton. B. (2010). Coastal management in Australia. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press. Available as a downloadable ebook pdf file. Retrieved October 2019, from:

Coastal Zone Management pty ltd. Helping to manage our changing coastlines. This website is dedicated to the issue of sustainable management of global coastlines and inland areas. It features a case study on issues along a section of the Western Australian coastline in Scarborough Beach climate change risk assessment. Retrieved October 2019, from:

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