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Video clip synopsis – How can agriculture be made more sustainable in the future?
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 1min 20sec
Tags - drought, environment, land, Learning Journey Water, preservation, resources, sustainability, see all tags


Sustainable Agriculture

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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

Find out what is meant by ‘sustainable’ agriculture. Look for information regarding what sort of crops are sustainable, what farming techniques are used in sustainable agriculture and what it means to farmers, consumers and the environment if sustainable agriculture is not conducted.

While you watch

Take note of what Larissa Waters of the Queensland Greens political party says in regard to Federal government support for sustainable agriculture. Later on, discuss in class the benefits and detriments of the support referred to by Larissa Waters. Take the time to closely examine the details of the benefits and detriments; try to look for ways to increase the effect of the benefits and decrease the effect of the detriments.

After you watch

Create a boardgame on the theme of sustainable agriculture. Think of an appropriate name for your game e.g. ‘Future Crops’ or ‘Grow or Gamble?’. Your game might be in the style of a ‘fortune’ game like ‘Monopoly’ or ‘Snakes and Ladders’ or perhaps a strategy game like ‘Risk’. Consider the game elements such as rewards, threats, bonuses, mystery cards, number of players and special player privileges/punishments. Carefully consider the goal of the game e.g. is it to survive in agriculture for a set period, or produce the most sustainable crops or perhaps buy out other farmers as your sustainable farm becomes bigger and more successful?

Give some thought to the design of the playing surface and any playing pieces. You may like to look at the design of existing boardgames to get some inspiration. Challenge other students to play your game once it’s created. Alternatively you may like to swap games with others in your class and play their creations with other students, perhaps from other classes. If you do this, compare and contrast the various games and examine how they interpret the sustainable agriculture theme.

An extension of this activity is to take the sustainable agriculture theme into the digital realm and come up with a design for a computer game, perhaps in the style of ‘The Sims’. Your game design could be presented as a set of drawings and a written outline of the game features.

Further Resources


National Museum of Australia’s Talkback Classroom website

CSIRO: Sustainable Agriculture