Welcome to Big hART GOLD

Since early 2006, filmmakers, photographers, theatre makers and young people have spent time on rural properties across the Murray-Darling Basin in Eastern Australia. These project participants have been sharing and collecting stories with farming families during the worst drought on record and at a time when farmers are facing an uncertain future. These stories are being collated and presented throughout this site.

This work has and will inform a number of creative products including an exhibition installation GOLD-CROP; a series of events in farm houses,

shearing sheds, dry dams and riverbeds on properties across the Murray-Darling Basin; an acoustic musical, GOLDwater; and a documentary and additional creative content for national broadcast.


It's not about the survival of the farm. It’s the survival of the family.
Farmer - Boree Creek


Gold has many layers, involving film, photography, music and theatre making as well as education, skills development, crime prevention, social justice, community development and participation, and policy research. 

To contribute to this site, set up a user name, login and join or start a conversation in the forum GOLD Conversations, or receive regular updates by joining the GOLD mailing list.

The Big hART team welcomes your input and response. We hope you enjoy the GOLD experience.

The GOLD team


 What is the GOLD Project?




Could farming families be Australia’s first refugees of climate change? If we are witnessing significant changes in rural communities, then these changes in our narrative must be documented. With these changes come a multitude of social impacts on health, education, and employment as well as the more widespread implications caused by low crop yields and reduced livestock.

GOLD aims to include in national debate these perspectives of farming families who experience the effects of these changes first hand.

The website name www.au.org.au was inspired by "au" being the chemical symbol for gold as well as being the abbreviation for Australia.

For Australian farming families, water is gold.






At a time when crops are failing and harvest yields are low, Big hART GOLD has experienced growth in the relationships and generosity of farming families and rural communities.

Is Australia drying or drowning? Are we in the grip of accelerated climate change or is this just a normal weather pattern that we haven’t previously experienced? Is Mother Nature leading us along the right path or down the garden path?

There is continual debate in the media and amongst politicians, scientists and other specialists aiming to examine issues of climate change and water and their effects on Australia’s economy and environment. Alongside this debate, using multiple art forms, the GOLD Project examines these same issues and their effects on both personal narratives and on the narrative of this country.



GOLD is a long-term cultural project coordinated by award winning arts and social change company Big hART. The project has brought together artists and young people on the margin of their community with farming families from across the Murray-Darling Basin.

Since 2006 Big hART's team of photographers, filmmakers, designers and young people have been invited by farmers to spend time on their properties. Together they have collaborated on works of art that reveal the experiences and emotional weather of those Australians directly facing the consequences of climate change.

During this time some unique relationships have developed with farming families from Talgarno, Boree Creek, Rand, Mildura, Wentworth, Nangiloc, Griffith, Trundle, Taralga Springs, Stanthorpe and Goondiwindi.



Bringing these people together through a process of collecting and telling stories has enhanced their sense of connection and community.

An interest in the narratives that shape this nation is at the forefront of all of Big hART’s work.


Could farming families be Australia’s first refugees of climate change?


Much of Australia’s cultural identity has been shaped by the pioneers who opened up this country for agriculture, and subsequently by those who have farmed the land since. The expression a nation built on the sheep’s back is testimony to that.

With the onset of climate change there is a suggestion that agriculture in this country may be at a crossroads.



On the Ground
Big hART started talking with rural communities in 2003 with the aim of locating suitable project partners. In 2004 Griffith City Council invited Big hART to come and work with local young people.

The young people most in need of support in Griffith were identified as those falling out of mainstream
education due to a variety of issues including self-harming behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and homelessness. There is often little community response to these issues until individuals come to the attention of the judiciary.

Interestingly many farming families
experience similar issues. Despite differing backgrounds and initial problems, despite difference in age and experience, there is common ground between the two groups.

The GOLD Project asks what would happen if these two groups were brought together?
Is it possible to
work with two vastly different groups of people experiencing similar social impacts? By doing this could the process of engagement for both groups be enhanced? And could this engagement go on to facilitate some mutually beneficial relationships that might stretch beyond the project’s duration?


Young People
Workshops with young people in Griffith have been conducted since March 2006. The young people are referred to GOLD by local agencies, schools and through street work carried out by the Big hART team. Workshops are skill based, in film, photography and visual art and incorporate interview technique, camera operation and editing.

In 2007 the project moved into a shop front on the main street that functioned as a workshop space and post-production facility.
Participants were encouraged to assist with the day-to-day management of the space including shopping, catering and cleaning.

Young people participating in workshops are supported by project workers with the other aspects of their lives such as employment and income support, education and training opportunities and housing. Wherever possible participants are referred to other organisations and services to address the specific issues facing them.
There is an emphasis on encouraging and developing good citizenship and community participation. Young people are encouraged to engage with local events and activities and are supported by the project to attend festivals, workshops and other opportunities that present. There are regular excursions to farming communities to interact with farming families, develop relationships and produce work.

Farming Communities

BIG hART has had the privilege of working with twenty farming families from nine communities in the Murray-Darling Basin including Talgarno, Rand, Boree Creek, Griffith, Trundle, Mildura, Wentworth, Goondiwindi and Stanthorpe.

Consultation with farmers and farming communities  has been conducted since early 2006. Initial visits by Big hART workers are followed up with excursions by a team made up of workers and young people. Interviews are filmed and recorded, photographs are taken.

The team will often spend a few days in a community or on a farm, building relationships, producing work, assisting with farm work and encouraging further participation in the project. You can  read more about this in our blogging posts in the GOLD Lab.

The narratives that are recorded are edited and curated in the GOLD post-production facility. They are then uploaded to the website where they become accessible for viewing by everyone.

This resource bank of material will inform further work

developed by the Big hART creative team including the GOLD-CROP exhibition, the GOLD theatre performance, GOLDwater, and a documentary film.

The families we have worked with have all been very generous with their time, their hospitality and with the sharing of their stories. We hope we have been able to represent them and their communities in an honourable way in the narratives presented throughout this site.

The GOLD Team thanks them all for their ongoing participation.