From the cracked earth to the cracked hands of a farmer, a special photographic exhibition coming to Emerald next month shares compelling stories of drought and human resilience from western Queensland.
The Our Strength During The Drought (2018) exhibition was a research project conducted by University of Southern Queensland PhD student Anne Smith in collaboration with the Barcaldine Regional Council.
The powerful images were captured by volunteer local photographers and students from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School as they tried to highlight the personal impact of the Barcaldine region’s record-breaking drought.
Ms Smith, a professional photographer and strategic partnering specialist, said the exhibition evolved from a similar photographic project, named Drought What Next (2014).
‘The Drought What Next (2014) exhibition became the prototype for my PhD research, which investigated if images can build resilience, wellbeing and capacity in crisis impacted communities,’ she said.
‘Sharing these beautiful but often heart-breaking images can potentially connect and strengthen the community.’
Barcaldine Mayor Rob Chandler said he was excited for the Barcaldine Regional Council to bring the exhibition to the Emerald Art Gallery in partnership with the Central Highlands Regional Council.
‘The exhibition of photographs tells the story through the lenses of the young and old, seven years into the worst drought in western Queensland history,’ Mayor Chandler said.
‘The images, strangely enough, depict the beauty of our landscape and in doing so hide the brutal reality behind the scenes.
‘Barcaldine Regional Council is pleased to partner with Central Highlands Regional Council to collectively keep this simple message front and centre. This dry has not gone away and it will linger long after the grey clouds bring rain.
‘I trust this exhibition strengthens the city’s affinity with the bush and is the catalyst that keeps our governments on notice.’
Central Highlands Mayor Kerry Hayes said the exhibition would hit close to home for many Central Highlanders also struggling with the ongoing effects of drought.
‘We are no strangers to drought here as many of our landholders grapple with prevailing dry conditions,’ he said.
‘In June, the Central Highlands local government area was fully drought declared. While that provides some financial reprieve to our residents, the social and mental impacts still run deep.
‘I think this exhibition is a wonderful conversation starter and an opportunity for all parts of the community to visualise what is happening as a result of the drought.
‘It is a chance for us to reflect on our own drought story – the losses, the triumphs and the in-between – but it also opens up discussions about solutions for the future.
‘Just like our western neighbour, we are a strong, passionate and resilient community.’
Mayor Hayes encouraged residents to visit the exhibition, which will be on display from 1 – 29 November 2019.
The official opening will be held from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm on 1 November 2019 at the gallery.
For more information visit council’s website www.centralhighlands.qld.gov.au or call 1300 242 686.