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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: 9-10
Strand: Place and space
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Drought; Sustainability; El Niño Effect; Conservation; Planning

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Place and space – Environmental impacts
NSW:History Stage 5, Topic 3B, Topic 7A
Geography Stage 5, 5A4
NT:Environment 5.2, 5+.2
Qld:9/10 Civics – Place and space 5.2, 6.1
9/10 Geography
– Time, continuity and change D6.4
– Place and space 6.2, 6.3
– Systems, resources and power 5.4
9/10 History – Systems, resources and power 5.1
SA:Time, continuity and change 5.3
Place, space and environment 5.5
Social systems 5.10
Tas:World Futures – Creating sustainable futures. Standard 5
Vic:History 6.2
Geography 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5 ext
Economy and society 6.5 ext
WA:Place and space

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. What would be the flow-on consequences of the drought affecting sheep farmers? Consider possible environmental, economic and social impact and prepare a mind map to show this.
  2. We know droughts will occur. Should we feel sorry for and help farmers affected by it, or should we expect them to have set up effective management strategies beforehand? Discuss your ideas.
  3. Interview a primary producer or local government official to discover their views on water management.
  4. One of the most important needs in Australia is for better water conservation. Brainstorm and then research possible strategies for improving water conservation in agriculture, industry and domestic life.
  5. 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 practicable?

Modules That Use This Clip

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