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Video Clip Synopsis:
An artist and two drovers capture the beauty of 1200 head of cattle making their way across the outback in the last great Australian cattle drive.

1min 52sec

The Art of Cattle Droving is an excerpt from the film The Last Great Cattle Drive (58 mins), produced in 1988.

The Last Great Cattle Drive: Australia’s last great cattle drive started in May 1988 with 1200 head of cattle on a journey from Newcastle Waters in the Northern Territory and ended 2000 km to the east in Longreach in September. This film is a tribute to the Australian drover and a celebration of the cattle drives that opened up the Territory and were a feature of outback life until the advent of road trains.

The Last Great Cattle Drive was produced by Film Australia.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: The Arts
Year: 7-8
Strand: Visual arts
Theme: Artists at Work

Key Concepts

Identity; Culture; Environment

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Visual arts, Level 5: characteristics of visual arts works made within a particular culture and in a particular historical period
NSW:Visual arts: Stage 4, Critical study, Historical study
NT:Arts responses and analysis VA 5.3, Arts in Context VA 5.4, VA5+.4
Qld:Visual arts: VA 4.3, VA5.3
SA:Arts in context 4.6,5.6
Tas:Visual art: Arts criticism and aesthetics, Past and present contexts (Bands B & C)
Vic:Responding to the arts 5.3, 5.4
WA:Responding, reflecting on and evaluating the arts RRE 6, 7. 8

Context / Background Information

The image of the cattle drover is integral to Australian culture and identity. Evidence of its iconic status can be found at the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach and in the commemorations that took place during the Centenary of Federation in 2001 and the 'Year of the Outback' in 2002.

In this video clip students can see a traditional lifestyle and environment that has inspired generations of Australian painters, poets and composers.

The landscape itself, the history of its exploration and the people who live and labour in remote areas are particularly common themes in Australian art. As this video clip shows, the quality of light and the colours of the outback still fascinate Australian stockmen working in the industry. The video clip can be used as a focus for art appreciation and will assist students to respond to and analyse many Australian paintings.

Discussion Pointers

  1. The job of the drover is slowly disappearing. What factors do you think are contributing to its demise?
  2. Discuss the lifestyle of an Australian stockman and list the possible advantages and disadvantages of living in a remote area.
  3. Imagine you have been asked to create a painting of a typical Australian landscape. What colours and images would you use?
  4. What are the differences in the ways painters and photographers create images of people and landscapes? Which do you prefer and why?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Watch the video clip and make a list of the images and words that show why stockmen love their work.
  2. Locate, examine and analyse a range of Australian paintings that use the Outback environment or Outback people as themes. How do the images compare with the realities shown in the video clip? Some suggestions are: Russell Drysdale (The Old Boss Drover, The Drover’s Wife); Sidney Nolan (Burke and Wills Expedition, Perished, Central Australia); Arthur Boyd (Waterhole with Birds near Alice Springs); Albert Namatjira (Valley Ghost Gums, Macdonnell Ranges).
  3. Compare and contrast Indigenous views of the outback landscape (eg. Rover Thomas, Emily Kngwarreye, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Papunya Tula artists) with European representations.
  4. Make an ‘outback’ folio of poetry, stories, songs, images of the drover and outback. This could be a class or individual project and be conducted across different subject areas.
  5. Access the website of an art gallery in your State or Territory or the National Gallery of Australia and choose one painting that you think best represents Australian identity. Explain your choice in a short oral presentation to class.

Modules That Use This Clip

The Arts Year 7-8, SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10, English Year 7-8