Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Mark Knight explains why he drew the PM and state leaders as musicians playing to a different beat on schools

Mark Knight, March 26, 2020 6:00PM Herald Sun

Print Article

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in Mark Knight’s cartoon about Covid-19 school closure confusion. media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in Mark Knight’s cartoon about Covid-19 school closure confusion.


Reading level: green

As the world goes into lockdown* due to the coronavirus* pandemic*, people are having to adapt to new ways of living.

To try to contain the spread of the virus, governments around the world have ordered people to stay in their homes. You just have to look at the streets in our cities and suburbs here in Australia to see that people now seem to be listening. The streets are empty.

But in the middle of all the gloom, one of the most uplifting things I’ve seen online during this period of self-isolation* came out of Italy — one of the hardest hit nations.

Confined* to their apartments, Italians could not resist that most human of instincts and that is to commune*, so they all came out on to the balconies and sang as one. Some even played musical instruments.

media_cameraA resident uses pot lids to play cymbals as she takes part in a musical number from her balcony in Rome, Italy. Picture: AFP

It was amazing and beautiful. It was a demonstration of the human spirit that even though we are physically isolated, we can still come together as one in other ways.

I loved this image and wanted to use it in a cartoon but I wasn’t sure how? I put the picture in a draw in the back of my mind and waited for the right occasion.

That occasion came this week when the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has one of the most difficult jobs at the moment, was alerting Australians on the latest rules we must follow to stay safe.

He talked about schools and whether they should stay open or not.

His advice from health experts was that they should remain open and children should keep going to school. He probably lost a lot of likes from kids for that decision but he said young people were less affected by the virus and health workers who have kids at school might have to stay at home and mind their children if schools were closed.

We need all our health workers on the job at the moment so the advice was to keep schools open.

media_cameraA teacher is seen in an empty class room at a primary school in Melbourne this week. Picture: AAP

But the premiers of Victoria and New South Wales disagreed and wanted schools closed as well as other tougher shutdown measures.

There was disharmony*!

The National Cabinet, which consists of all state and territory leaders and the Prime Minister, is running the country during the Covid-19 pandemic and has to have a strong united voice on decisions so the public can clearly understand what is going on.
This split was not good.

That’s when I thought of all those Italians singing together in perfect harmony* during their darkest times. Why can’t our leaders do that? I pulled that image from the drawer in my brain and set about turning it into a cartoon.

Mark Knight’s school closures cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab for full-size image.

Mark Knight cartoon about covid-19 school closure confusion. media_cameraMark Knight cartoon about covid-19 school closure confusion.

I drew an apartment block where all the balconies face in on each other. Strung between the apartments are washing lines with clothes drying on them to give it a realistic feel.

On their balconies were the PM, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian all singing … but they were singing different things!

The PM with his guitar was singing about schools remaining open, Mr Andrews with his banjo was belting out in a strong voice how they should close and Ms Berejiklian was on a tuba pumping out a tune about closing everything! Quite an unpleasant noise unlike the beautiful harmonies* coming from those Italian residents.

But I needed a punchline*, a comment from a member of the public who symbolised the thoughts of the common man or woman. So on the floor below the politicians, there are two residents on their balconies and one of them is bemoaning the noise from above and encouraging the politicians to all try and sing from the same songbook.

Good advice! The cartoon shows we all have to work together in these difficult times.


  • lockdown: a state of isolation or limited movement
  • coronavirus: a virus that causes illness in humans and animals
  • pandemic: a disease that spread across the world
  • self-isolation: separating yourself from others
  • confined: kept in one space
  • commune: to come together as a community
  • disharmony: conflict or disagreement
  • harmony: a pleasing combination of musical notes
  • punchline: the final phrase of a joke or story


Knight: Protect yourselves, it’s strange times

We’re going on a bear hunt

Covid-19 questions and simple answers


  1. Which human instinct could the Italians not resist?
  2. Which premiers disagreed with the PM on schools?
  3. What is the National Cabinet?
  4. Name the instruments the three leaders are playing.
  5. What is the message behind Mark Knight’s cartoon?


1. New punchline
Cartoonist Mark Knight has used a musical punchline from the apartment resident to express how ordinary Australians are feeling about the disharmony between leaders about schools staying open or closed.

Read Mark’s explanation of what the cartoon means again and write two, three or four short sentences, just to make sure you understand what the cartoon is saying.

Using your sentences to help you, write a new punchline for the cartoon that will keep Mark’s meaning the same and still make the purpose of the cartoon clear for children or people who haven’t been reading the news this week.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Look through the most recent stories on Kids News and choose one to draw a cartoon about.

Use Mark’s three-step process to get started:

  • What is my subject?
  • What do I want to say about this issue?
  • How do I say it? Do I use visual metaphors (an image that the viewer is meant to understand as a symbol for something else), multiple panels or symbolism (when one idea, feeling or emotion is represented by something else such as a: picture, character, colour or object)?

Time: allow at least 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

  • How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).
  • Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?
  • What are they?
  • Can you sort them into their categories?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think it is better for schools to stay open or closed?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in arts