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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, 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


Students will learn:

  • to deconstruct a documentary film clip from an earlier era
  • to compare media representations of drought
  • to design a front page for a newspaper based on the clip
  • to write a contemporary voice over for the clip

Curriculum links
National: The Statements of Learning for English- Year 7

Reading, viewing and interpreting texts
Students read, view and interpret information texts
texts in books, films, and on television programs, CD-ROMs and websites.
Students understand that:

  • texts can entertain and evoke emotion
  • subject matter is selected to appeal to different audiences
  • readers’ and viewers’ interpretations of texts are influenced by the knowledge and values of the groups to which they belong, and by their own experiences.
  • texts can be constructed for more than one purpose (eg to report, to present a point of view, to create a market for more readers and viewers)
  • creators of texts use their assumptions about readers and viewers to engage their interest and attention
  • aspects of subject matter are selected to appeal to, and to influence, different groups of readers and viewers.

Students write texts to entertain, inform and persuade in print and electronic mediums for unknown or specified audiences.
Students understand that writers:

  • select subject matter within a chosen topic according to purpose and audience
  • can draw on their own knowledge, experiences, thoughts and feelings
  • can draw on the subject matter and forms of texts they have heard, read and viewed.

Speaking and listening
Students speak and listen through discussions, conversations and oral presentations including prepared and spontaneous discussions, meetings, debates and group discussions. Students examine ideas and information and present arguments that are drawn from topics of interest to them and that may need to be researched.

This resource is also relevant to Media Studies: Audiences, the Documentary form, Media in society, Representation and Codes and Conventions of film.

This is an extract only. Teachers and students should consult their state’s curriculum and learning programs.
Go to The National Curriculum Statements for English

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. Discuss the representation of drought in the clip and current media coverage of drought in TV news and documentary programs. What are the main issues, causes and solutions that are focussed on in current representations?
  5. 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.
  6. In two columns, list the images the filmmaker uses to show the effects of the drought on people and animals.
  7. Do you think that the music suits the topic? Give reasons why or why not.
  8. Brainstorm and list other images you think may have been included to make a more effective film.
  9. In groups, design a front page for a newspaper for 1968, with the lead article focussing on this story. To research the design and style of newspapers of that time, go to Front Pages of the Australian

Further Resources


Mandy Chang (director), Remembering Rain, Film Australia & ABC, 2005

Go to Screen Education and Metro magazine for excellent online articles and study guides for using Australian documentaries in English.

Go to Newspaper Design for designing a front page.

Go to Bureau of Meteorology