What is Geography?

Nature and extent of Geography

Geography is the study of place, space and the environment. Geographers investigate the character of places, the distribution of phenomena across space, biophysical processes and features, and dynamic relationships between humans and environments.Geographers ask questions about why these phenomena and relationships are like they are and how they could be; how societies and environments are connected to one another; how and why they change; and how and why their characteristics vary across time and space at different scales. Geography answers questions spanning the local to the global, in the past, present and future.

Geography is fundamentally interdisciplinary. It is one of the few disciplines that encompass very different ways of knowing, from the natural and social sciences and the humanities. Geographers are therefore uniquely equipped to understand and address critical problems facing the world. Geographers are motivated by issues such as social and environmental justice, and the efficient, equitable and sustainable use of resources.

Geographical thought develops knowledge and understanding from three complementary concepts.

The first is the concept of place. Geographers explore what places mean, how people shape places, and how places shape our lives. This brings many areas of geography together in an holistic approach to understanding the characteristics of, and relationships between localities, cities, regions, countries and continents.

The second concept is environment. Geographers investigate biophysical environments encompassing terrestrial, marine and atmospheric systems. These investigations include the nature, dimensions and causes of environmental change; the reciprocal relationships between the environment and people; the resources biophysical systems provide and their sustainability.

The third concept is space. Geographers examine how, why and with what effect diverse phenomena vary across the surface of the earth. Geographers understand space to be configured by the movement and organisation of people and materials as well as being a location for social and material action.

This definition of Geography was endorsed in November 2010 by the: Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Geography, Australian Geography Teachers’ Association, Geographical Society of New South Wales, Institute of Australian Geographers, Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, and Royal Geographical Society of South Australia.