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Video clip synopsis – Fresh water is going to become an expensive and diminishing resource. Are we water wasters?
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 3min 29sec
Tags - drought, Learning Journey Water, natural resources, sustainability, water, see all tags


Attitudes to Water

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About the Video Clip


Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year a series of forums are held. At each forum a panel of three secondary students, selected from schools Australia-wide, interview a leading decision-maker on an important current matter. The panel participate in a ‘learning journey’ to explore the matter and prepare for the forum. This involves researching related topics and interviewing relevant people in the community. Panellists also develop interview techniques in workshops at Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia. The interviews are then recorded in the Museum’s Studio in front of a live student audience.

This clip comes from the 2007 learning journey for the ‘Water Crisis’ forum. The guest interviewed in the forum was the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, former Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. The panellists were QLD Year 11 students Jane Cairns and Oscar Schlamowitz from Brisbane State High School and Emma Buckley-Lennox from Indooroopilly State High School. The learning journey involved students visiting Jondaryan in Queensland and interviewing the Mayor of Jondaryan Shire, Peter Taylor and Ian McHugh, Director of Planning and Development at Jondaryan Shire Council. The students also interviewed Dianne Thorley the Mayor of Toowoomba. Whilst in Brisbane, the panellists met with Larissa Waters, member of the Queensland Greens, The Hon. Rod Welford MP, QLD minister for Education, Training and the Arts, Dr Brian Crozier, curator Queensland Museum and John Cherry, president of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation.

Background Information


Australia has a history of drought and variable rainfall; some parts of the country are currently experiencing a major water crisis. This, coupled with global climate change and drought, presents a serious challenge to the Australian people and government. Southern areas of Australia are running out of fresh water supplies. Increases in population, drought-induced crop failures and salinity are all contributing to the water crisis in Australia. Water resources, such as river systems, underground aquifers and water storage facilities (from dams to water tanks) have historically been managed by the state governments in Australia, despite the fact that many of these resources are used by more than one state. The uncoordinated approach of the states to water management has resulted in many unhealthy river systems, for example the Murray-Darling river system. The poor health of this system is due to water users upstream being allocated more water entitlements than is being replaced through rainfall and replenishment from underground water sources. As well as the poor health of many river systems and the shrinking levels in water storage facilities, the increasing population in Australia is placing pressure on water availability. South-eastern Queensland and particularly the town of Toowoomba is a prime example of an area that is experiencing problems with water supply. This situation is forcing the community to weigh up options: desalination, recycling water or piping in water from other areas are some of the possible solutions.

Classroom Activities


Before you watch

Desalination is proposed as one solution to the problems of sustainable water supply for our large cities. Carry out some research into the desalination process, looking for information regarding the technology, costs and environmental effects of the process.

Once you have assembled some research information on the topic, draw up a large piece of paper with the heading ‘Desalination’ and two columns, one headed ‘Pros’ (reasons for) and ‘Cons’ (reasons against). Working in small groups, list the pros and cons of desalination. Each group is to discuss the pros and cons and try to arrive at a group decision that supports or rejects desalination as a viable water supply method.

Have the groups report their decision and provide reasons for their result. Discuss desalination as a whole class and see if it’s possible to arrive at a unified class position on the matter i.e. support or reject.

While you watch

Dr Brian Crozier of the Queensland Museum refers to early non-Indigenous settlers bringing with them a ‘European attitude’ to water. What do you think is meant by this statement? How much has this ‘European attitude’ changed? What is the evidence of this change, if it has occurred? What might be the attitude of Indigenous Australians to water, particularly in the more arid regions of the country?

After you watch

Use the following story outline to create a short drama performance. Keep your performance under 10 minutes.

‘It is the year 2108. Australia is gripped by yet another extended drought. Water supplies are dangerously low; desalination plants are working over-time and a ‘black market’ in water is thriving. People are paying extraordinary amounts of money for water from companies and black market profiteers. In an inner-city office somewhere in Australia, an old man approaches the service desk of a large water supply corporation. Behind the desk is a young woman on the second day of her job. In an office nearby sits a man who is responsible for the distribution of water in the local area. His own family is suffering from water shortages, however he’s obliged to follow the corporate policy regarding the sale of water.

The old man shuffles wearily to the desk. The young woman looks up from a computer screen. She sees him and for a moment a look of concern passes across her face. Recomposing herself, she says “Yes, how may I help you?” The old man steadies himself against the desk, takes a deep breath and says…’

Consider the use of props, costume and make-up in your performance. Use the above story or perhaps write your own stimulus piece based upon information in the ‘Attitudes to Water’ clip. Extend the performance beyond 10 minutes if you feel that your story development needs to be explored further or expanded. Have each performance presented to the whole class, or perhaps to other classes. There may even be possibilities to present to the school at an assembly or other occasion. Record the performances if possible on videotape.

Further Resources


National Museum of Australia’s Talkback Classroom website

CSIRO: Land and Water