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The Art of Cattle Droving

Video clip synopsis – An artist and two drovers capture the beauty of 1200 head of cattle making their way across the outback in the last great Australian cattle drive.
Year of production - 1988
Duration - 1min 52sec
Tags - cars, Indigenous Australia, The Dreaming, see all tags


The Art of Cattle Droving

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 cattle_pr.mp4 (13.8MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 cattle_bb.mp4 (6.5MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

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About the Video Clip


The Art of Cattle Droving is an excerpt from the film The Last Great Cattle Drive (58 mins), produced in 1988.

The Last Great Cattle Drive: Australia’s last great cattle drive started in May 1988 with 1200 head of cattle on a journey from Newcastle Waters in the Northern Territory and ended 2000 km to the east in Longreach in September. This film is a tribute to the Australian drover and a celebration of the cattle drives that opened up the Territory and were a feature of outback life until the advent of road trains.

The Last Great Cattle Drive was produced by Film Australia.

Curriculum Focus


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
H.4 A student describes and analyses the ways that language forms and features, and structures of texts shape meaning and influence responses.
H.6 A student engages with the details of text in order to respond critically and personally.
H.8 A student articulates and represents own ideas in critical, interpretive and imaginative texts from a range of perspectives.
H.11 A student draws upon the imagination to transform experience and ideas into text, demonstrating control of language.

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

Background Information


The European occupation of the inland area of northern Australia was stimulated by the availability of cheap pasture in areas that could be used to raise cattle.

While the land was often only able to sustain small numbers of head per hectare, the huge area of land meant that large numbers of cattle could be grazed.

However, the cattle grazing areas were remote from markets and the cattle had to be driven over long distances to road or rail points and then transported to ports or slaughter yards.

Aboriginal people provided the bulk of the labour used in the industry. This was because Aboriginal people saw this as a way of remaining in contact with their own country, the area where they were born, and also because cattle owners could not attract other workers to the area in any numbers. The Aboriginal workers, despite their skills, were paid very poorly, though support was given to their extended families to live in the area.

In the 1970s the federal government ruled that Aboriginal stockmen were to be paid the full minimum wage. This greatly increased the cost of running the cattle stations, to the point where many became unable to survive. At the same time increased technological developments, such as the introduction of helicopters and trail bikes for mustering, reduced the number of people needed to drove cattle.

In the video clip we see one of the last large musters and movement of cattle to market.

Classroom Activities

  1. Brainstorm your image of cattle droving and outback cattle country. What is your overall image?
  2. Play the video clip extract with no sound. What image or message is being presented?
  3. Now play the video clip with the sound on.
    1. How do the drovers in the clip react or respond to the country and their job? Create a list of words that summarise the image of the outback cattle country presented in the video clip. What is the overall image?
    2. Compare this to your perceptions as recorded in the brainstorm and discuss the similarities and differences. For example, do you think that your image of the country is harsher than theirs? Or that you do not stress the beauty like they do? If your images are similar, try and explain why. If they are different, try and explain why that is.
  4. The filmmaker stresses an image of great beauty. How is this image created? Consider such elements as the narration and the interviews, music, the types of film shots presented, the lighting.
  5. The video clip presents a variety of ways of responding to the same experience, and communicating that experience. These include:
    a painting
    moving images
  6. Look at each as it is presented in the video clip. Draw up a table summarising the strengths and limitations of each for communicating ideas and emotions effectively. Which do you find the most effective in the clip? Why?
  7. Imagine that you have been asked to create filmic impression of droving in outback cattle country. You only have the images presented in the video clip — but you can change the narration and change what is said in the interviews. Create an outline of a script that will achieve this.

Literacy Activity: Focus = Viewing / Responding

  1. How does the team work together to move the cattle? (Draw and Describe) (2 marks)
  2. Identify how we are shown the outback is unique. (1 mark)
  3. Identify how we are shown the beauty can change. (2 marks)

Extension – Write 2 paragraphs which explain how the visual images and the soundtrack work co-operatively to convey the messages of the video clip. (5 marks)