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Conflict and contradiction – observations on a sense of well-being in a farming community

Stephen Routledge


The purpose of this project is to foster an understanding of the conflicts and contradictions that are always present in balancing sustainable and profitable agriculture, while maintaining a healthy stewardship over the rural landscape. All of this while trying to maintain a sense of well-being within themselves, their families and the broader rural community.

This project initially grew from “Salt of the Earth” which was a nationally toured photographic exhibition that celebrated farmers in the Murray Darling Basin. Through the use of digital and analogue photography the project is developing different ways of seeing the complexities of Australian farming systems beyond their practical boundaries and restrictions. Sustainable farming practices are all too easily defined from an intellectual and often over simplistic viewpoint.

The methods used were recorded face to face interviews around the kitchen table, digital photographs taken at high resolution, and throw away cameras given to participants to picture significant activities that had happened on the farm throughout the history of the owners’ stewardship. These pictures were processed and scanned to a medium resolution and burnt to disk, and the remaining pictures and soundtrack were edited on a home computer. A major emphasis in the whole process was on listening at both the interview and editing stage.

The project, supported by North East Catchment Management Authority, Ovens & King Community Health and Victorian State Landcare, seeks to listen to those people who’s lives are deeply connected to agriculture and who have a strong sense of country.


An 18 minute DVD to be shown at the conference, based on a project in parts of NSW and Victoria. Information on the Conflict and Contradiction project may be found on the website at or by purchasing a DVD for $25 including postage & packaging - through Stephen Routledge

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