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A Farmer's Life in Drought

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.
Year of production - 1968
Duration - 2min 2sec
Tags - environment, habitats, sustainability, water, see all tags


A Farmer's Life in Drought

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 drought_pr.mp4 (15.0MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 drought_bb.mp4 (7.1MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

buy iconYou can buy this clip on a compilation DVD.

About the Video Clip


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.

Curriculum Focus


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
P.2 A student identifies and describes relationships among texts.
P.3 A student demonstrates understanding of cultural reference in texts.
P.9 A student engages with a wide range of texts to develop a considered and informed personal response.
P.11 A student analyses and synthesises information and ideas from a range of texts in a range of modes and media.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

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.

Classroom Activities

  1. Write a 50-word summary of the video clip and include what an audience would best appreciate from the video clip.
  2. Discuss and identify the message(s) about drought that you think the filmmaker is trying to convey.
  3. List as many points as you can from the video clip under the headings: facts, problems and solutions.
  4. Write a new 500-word voice-over script that suits a modern teenage audience but keeps the same message(s) about drought and farm work.
  5. In two columns, list the images the filmmaker uses to show the effects of the drought on people and animals.
  6. Do you think that the music suits the topic? Give reasons why or why not.
  7. Brainstorm and list other images you think may have been included to make a more effective film.

Literacy Activity: Focus = Listening / Responding

  1. What are the visual signs of drought we are shown in the clip? (2 marks)
  2. What is the last type of feed available to give the sheep? (1 mark)
  3. What are the windmills used for when there is no drought? (1 mark)
  4. What was the last step in the attempt to save the sheep from the drought conditions? (1 mark)

Further Resources


Go to: Bureau of Meteorology
Mandy Chang (director), Remembering Rain, Film Australia & ABC, 2005