Mark Knight’s cartoon captures Australian spirit amid floods


Our nation of ‘droughts and torrential rains’ has always faced major weather events, but climate change is intensifying these cycles and we can expect more events.

As dire as they may be, they reveal something positive about ourselves: our sense of community and our concern for others.

I have experienced two major bushfires that have threatened my home, so I know something about the stress and fear involved for those affected by the forces of mother nature.

My heart warmed to see SES (State Emergency Service) volunteers and workers in the flooded suburbs and towns of Victoria last week. They were helping people cope with the flooding* of their homes and livelihoods, whether it was filling sandbags or riding in their tinnies* to fish stranded people out of their front course.

I’ve done cartoons about the floods and the effects of La Nina, but I wanted to draw something related to the human side of the tragedy. I felt the cartoon needed to be empathetic* and make people smile after so much bad news.

The flood zone photographs of SES workers dressed in orange driving through the streets in their inflatable boats were a nice strong image to work with.

The police had called everyone to evacuate and I was thinking about how the elderly could cope. After seeing several seniors evacuated, an idea came to me.

I imagined an elderly lady – it could be your grandmother – being rescued by the SES. I drew her sitting proudly in the rubber tire with a team of SES volunteers piloting the boat.

But of course, a lot of people don’t live alone, there are other family members, and those family members aren’t always human. They are our beloved pet companions, and they cannot be left behind!

So I started adding into the boat the lady’s trusted Scottish terrier who stands on alert from the start. Then there is the magpie who comes to breakfast every morning. On the lady’s lap is her marmalade cat and just behind her, in the trusted hands of a volunteer, is her canary in its cage. No one has been left behind!

And if you look closely at the name on the road sign, it gives a little nod* to our history of extreme weather events, as shown in the famous poem My Country by Dorothea Mackellar:

I love a country burned by the sun,
A country of vast plains,
Jagged mountain ranges,
Droughts and torrential rains.

The human spirit is vital in these natural disasters, it’s what keeps communities together. The cartoon illustrates that we have plenty to spare*!


  • flood: flood
  • tinny: small aluminum boats
  • empathetic: show the ability to understand and share the feelings of others
  • nod: acknowledgement
  • shovel : in abundance, to have a lot of something


Victorian Flood Muddy Heroes


  1. What type of natural disaster threatened Mark’s home twice?
  2. What two things did Mark want this cartoon to do?
  3. What poem is Mark referring to in the story?
  4. What is the poem called?
  5. According to Mark, what do Aussies have to spare?


1. What happens next?
Imagine that this cartoon is part of a story made up of three cartoons. All three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the beginning of the story. Think about what the story might be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes for this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Being able to draw is just one of the skills needed to be a great draftsman. Write a list of any other skills you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job.

Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them do a great job.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Skills, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design

Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it.

Add three adjectives to better describe them.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they do the action.

Using all the words listed, create a descriptive sentence.

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