Lockhart, NSW, has used art – particularly sculpture – to mark its survival of drought.

Story By John Dunn

There were plenty of dark days in the eastern Riverina, NSW, between 2002 and 2007. The worst drought in recorded history ravaged the districts around Lockhart, a town of 850 people 65 kilometres west of Wagga Wagga. In 2006 rainfall around Lockhart and the neighbouring towns of Narrandera and Tarcutta was the lowest ever recorded. “Battling an invisible foe like drought wasn’t easy,” says long-time resident Liz Pertzel. “It required an entire community’s inner strength as well as considerable courage and an unwavering determination.”
When the rains came again and the grass and the crops began to grow, the community wanted to celebrate, so an annual festival named Spirit of the Land was organised. Held during the second week of October, it encompasses a range of attractions and activities from picnic races and open gardens to markets, Indigenous exhibitions and a wool gallery.
Sculptures are a highlight and the sculptors compete for awards worth $23,000. The principal category is the National Farm Art Sculpture Award, carrying a prize of $10,000. “This is a contest designed to showcase and capture the uniqueness of the Australian landscape, flora and fauna and the lifestyle of living on the land and we encourage the re-use of old machinery and farm equipment because we regard steel and metal as elements of the land,” organiser Mandy Strong says.

This Story is from Issue #104

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2016