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About the Video Clip:

Video Clip Synopsis:
It hasn’t rained for 18 months and 5,000 sheep have already perished. Farmer Max Russell is desperate to save his remaining flock. He hands them over to a drover.

2min 2sec

A Farmer’s Life in Drought is an excerpt from the film Drought (4 mins), a segment of the series Australian Diary, produced in 1968.

Drought: A look at how grazier Max Russell is affected by drought and copes by sending his sheep out with drovers.

Australian Diary: Filmed between 1947 and 1970, the Australian Diary series records how Australians have lived, worked and played over the years. Each of these short black-and-white films provides a snapshot of Australian life at the time, from rural areas and small towns to capital cities. Informative, entertaining and often amusing, the subjects range from serious to quirky and cover everything from innovations in agriculture, industry and science to sport, art, education, fashion, flora and fauna. There are a total of 136 diaries with 440 individual stories, providing a picture of a proud, diverse, idiosyncratic and constantly changing nation.

Australian Diary is a National Film Board Production. Produced by the Department of Information.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: Science
Year: 7-8
Strand: Biological science/Life and living
Theme: Science Work

Key Concepts

The Australian environment, Introduced species, habitat, Sustainability.

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Science: Life and living; Earth and Beyond
NSW:Science: 4.2, 4.9, 4.10, 4.11
NT:Science: CC4.2, CC4.4
Qld:Science: Earth and Beyond 4.1; Life and Living 4.3
SA:Science: Earth and Space 4.1; Life systems 4.5
Tas:World futures: Investigating the Natural and Constructed worl; Creating sustainable futures
Vic:Science: Biological science 4.1; Earth and space science 4.1
WA:Science: Earth and beyond; Life and living; Acting responsibly

Context / Background Information

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth (Antarctica is the driest overall). Our climate is highly variable - across the continent generally, as well as from year-to-year.

Drought is an abnormally dry period when there is not enough water to meet the needs of people in that area.

There have been several notable droughts throughout the 20th century in Australia and many are remembered for the effect that they have had on the sheep and cattle populations.

This video clip was taken during a long drought that occurred between 1958 and 1967. In the last two years of that drought there was a 40 per cent drop in wheat harvest, a loss of 20 million sheep, and a decrease in farm income of $300-500 million.

One of the effects of drought combined with over-grazing, is to strip the land of vegetation. This can then lead to soil erosion and rising ground water which causes salinity.

Discussion Pointers

Discuss students’ understanding of drought. Has drought ever affected them personally? If so, how?

Discuss weather patterns and cycles. What do they know about El Niño and the Southern Oscillation Index?

Many of Australia’s early farmers came from Europe and Great Britain. They used their traditional farming methods and passed their knowledge down through generations. Discuss the effect of European farming methods on the Australian environment.

A farmer’s income is often dependent on the climate and weather. How would you cope in a prolonged drought if your sheep were dying, your pasture was destroyed and you had very little income?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Before watching the video clip research the meanings of the following words: agriculture, ecosystem, habitat, salinity, soil erosion, drover, meteorology.
  2. Interview a farmer and find out how they deal with changes in weather patterns, in particular, drought.
  3. Construct a rain gauge and measure the rainfall at your home or school over a period of weeks. Graph the results. Collect the rainfall statistics from the daily newspaper for the same period and compare the results. Suggest reasons for any differences.
  4. Activity: Australia has a variable climate and there is always the chance of drought. Meteorologists use past weather information and complex computer programs to try to predict the chances of drought. Go to the Bureau of Meteorology website and complete this climate modelling activity.
  5. Research El Nino and La Nina and their effect on the Australian climate.
  6. Monitor your water usage for a day and investigate ways to reduce the amount of water you used.

Modules That Use This Clip

Science Year 7-8, SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10, SOSE/HSIE Year 11-12