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About the Video Clip:

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: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 9-10
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Environment; Ways of seeing; Land and identity; Change over time; Impacts of technological change

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Culture and identity
NSW:Geography level 5, Focus area 5A1
NT:Environment, 5.2
Qld:9/10 Geography – Time, continuity and change 6.4, Place and space 5.1
9/10 History – Time, continuity and change 6.3, Culture and identity 5.2
SA:Time, continuity and change, 5.3 Societies and culture, 5.8
Place, space and environment, 5.5
Tas:Social responsibility—Understanding the past and creating preferred futures, Standard 5
Vic:Geography 5.2
WA:Place and space
Time, continuity and change

Context / Background Information

The European occupation of the inland area of northern Australia was stimulated by the availability of cheap pasture areas that could be used to raise cattle.

While the land was often only able to sustain small numbers of head per hectare, the huge area of land meant that large numbers of cattle could be grazed.

However, the cattle grazing areas were remote from markets and the cattle had to be driven over long distances to road or rail points and then transported to ports or slaughter yards.

Aboriginal people provided the bulk of the labour used in the industry. This was because Aboriginal people saw this as a way of remaining in contact with their own country, the area where they were born, and also because cattle owners could not attract other workers to the area in any numbers. The Aboriginal workers, despite their skills, were paid very poorly, though support was given to their extended families to live in the area.

In 1968 the federal government ruled that Aboriginal stockmen were to be paid the full minimum wage. This greatly increased the cost of running the cattle stations, to the point where many became unable to survive. At the same time increased technological developments, such as road trains and semi-trailers, and the introduction of helicopters and trail bikes for mustering, reduced the number of people needed to drove cattle.

In the video clip we see one of the last large musters and movement of cattle to market.

Discussion Pointers

  1. Brainstorm your image of cattle droving, and outback cattle country.
  2. What is your overall image?
  3. How do the drovers in the video clip react or respond to the country and their job? Create a list of words that summarise the image of the outback cattle country presented in the clip. What is the overall image?
  4. Compare this to your perceptions as recorded in the brainstorm and discuss the similarities and differences. For example, do you think that your image of the country is harsher than theirs? Or that you do not stress the beauty like they do? If your images are similar, try and explain why. If they are different, try and explain why that is.
  5. Environment can be an important element in identity. Is this the case with any or all of the drovers shown in the video clip? Explain the reasons for your response.
  6. The filmmaker stresses an image of great beauty. How is this image created? Consider such elements as the narration and the interviews, music, the types of film shots presented, the lighting.
  7. The video clip presents one particular concept of environment which does not cover all possible aspects. What is ‘hidden’ or not shown that could be a relevant element in considering the cattle industry and the environment.

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Research one of these aspects of the outback cattle industry:
    • Aboriginal involvement in the industry
    • The impact of the payment of equal wages for Aboriginal workers in the cattle industry from 1966
    • The impact of changing technology on the industry
    • The impact of globalisation on the industry.

Modules That Use This Clip

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