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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: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 11-12
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Drought; Sustainability; El Niño effect; Conservation; Planning; Water conservation

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Senior Geography
NSW:Geography Stage 6 — Ecosystems; People and economic activity
NT:Geography stage 1 — Natural environments; People, resources and development; Issues for geographers
Qld:Senior Geography — Managing the natural environment; Resources and environment
SA:Geography stage 1 — Natural environments; People, resources and development; Issues for geographers
Tas:11/12 Geography
Vic:Geography Unit 3 — Resources
WA:Year 12 Geography — Landscape and land uses in Australia

Context / Background Information

Australia is a drought-prone country.

Records of rainfall have been kept in Australia since 1860, and there have been nine severe droughts in this period, meaning that for three months or more the rainfall in an area is in the lowest five per cent recorded in that area ever.

There have also been many less-severe droughts and many droughts in localised areas.

The major cause of severe drought in Australia is the El Niño effect, in which unusually warm currents off Peru lead to an equalisation of eastern and western Pacific waters, resulting in weak trade winds north of Australia, with the result that less moisture reaches Australia as rainfall.

Therefore while we cannot accurately predict drought, we know that droughts will periodically occur in Australia and their consequences need to be managed by primary producers and by governments.

Discussion Pointers

  1. What is the image of drought presented in this video clip?
  2. Why would this image be stressed, rather than, say, images of drought affecting people in cities?
  3. What is the attitude of the video clip towards what is happening?
  4. How does the video clip create this attitude?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Prepare a map of Australia with overlays to show the relationship between water reliability and high water usage crops. Describe the pattern that you observe.
  2. Some scientists argue that Australia needs to abandon its reliance on European-style agriculture involving crops that use large quantities of water and animals whose hooves damage the soil, and encourage the farming of native plants and animals (such as kangaroos). Prepare a mental map that would show the consequences (both positive and negative) of such a change. Would it be practical?
  3. Identify a specific water catchment area in your local community. Find information on the major water uses in that catchment. Prepare a report that critically analyses and evaluates that water usage.
  4. Research innovative water conservation measures for a particular high-water-usage industry — such as cotton, rice or grapes. Report on how practical such measures are, and their likely impact.

Modules That Use This Clip

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