This document has been developed as part of the MDBfutures research project ‘Towards Place Based Education in the Murray Darling Basin.’ The project explores the ways in which sustainability is understood in Murray Darling Basin (MDB) communities (including Indigenous, rural, small towns and regional centres); how it is presented in Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) education programs, and the ways it is currently taught in schools in the MDB region. Upon identifying the various perspectives on sustainability the project will examine how MDBA education programs and the Australian Curriculum, including its cross curriculum priorities of Sustainability and Indigenous perspectives, can best be adapted through place-based education to incorporate local knowledge in education.
This literature review provides a background for the research project; specifically it provides an overview of two important concepts for this project: place and sustainability. These are then followed with an analysis of the use of sustainability in State, Territory and National curriculum and education policy. Overall this literature review outlines that both place and sustainability are multifaceted and contested terms with each used in multiple ways throughout the literature.
It is not our aim here to definitively conclude what is meant by place or sustainability: that is work for the project in other publications and in relation to the work being undertaken. That each is defined in relation to the work being undertaken is perhaps the key conclusion here. Furthermore as the aim of the project is to uncover community understandings of sustainability it would be presumptuous for us to make definitive conclusions. Indeed as the project hypothesis the definitions of these terms tend to emanate from power and are not defined in relation to community, and in particular rural community, knowledges and understandings.
One thing that became clear undertaking this review is that there is little explicit theorisation of the connection between place and sustainability. Undoubtedly it exists at some level in the thinking of those writing on the topic, it is just that we could locate little explicit theorisation. Instead it was common to see work relating to ‘place’ using arguments that ‘place’ helps achieve sustainability, and equally for work on ‘sustainability’ in education referencing the importance of place pedagogy in achieving ‘sustainability’. As a result this document is divided into explicit sections on place and sustainability. Each makes reference to the other but as per the literature does not attempt to account for the connection between each. Adding to that connection will be part of the subsequent work of this project.