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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, 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


Outcomes from this module

  1. Students will learn about how drought affects Australian farmers.
  2. Students will discuss the video clip in its historical context.
  3. Students will learn about the impact of people on environments and how the environment shapes human activities, with particular reference to unique and distinctive Australian settings.
  4. Students will develop critical and creative thinking about environmental challenges and opportunities;
  5. Students will create a sustainability poster for their families plotting wise water use.

For more detail about Environment Education
Curriculum Statements- Educating for a Sustainable Future
A National Environmental Education Statement for Australian Schools

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. Discuss the video clip:
    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?
  2. Compare this clip with current reportage of the drought affecting much of Australia today.
  3. 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. Discuss the ways in which farming practises are changing and what measures are required to deal with drought.
  4. Creating a water usage poster for your family
    Using the activities and guide at The Home Water investigator design a water usage poster to show how each member of your family uses water. How could your family better save water?
    Water Saver Home has a practical room by room demonstration to help you.

Further Resources


Go to Living with Drought, an information website by the Australian Government Bureau of Meterology.

Go to Australian Farms and Farming Communities, a Federal Government portal that contains information about farming during drought and the history of drought in Australia.

Go to The Gould Group – Sustainability resources for schools