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A New Look at the Great Aussie Road Trip

February 27, 2019 Lifestyle No Comments Email Email


The summer holidays may be over, but Easter is coming and Australians will take to the road again – heading up and down the coast, visiting familiar spots or exploring new places off the beaten track. As the federal election campaign gears up, even the nation’s political leaders are hitting the road to sell their messages in key battlegrounds. The road trip looms large in Australian culture. Distance and mobility have shaped the national character and our love of travel is a defining quality of what it means to be Australian. A new book, Roads, Tourism and Cultural History: On the Road in Australia by historian, Dr Rosemary Kerr, reveals how ‘the road’ has captured the imagination of travellers, writers and film makers.

Grace Karskens, Professor of History at the University of NSW, describes it as ‘a stunningly original exploration of Australian roads, real and imagined, zones where dreams and nightmares, love and hate, exhilaration and horror are intimately entangled. Rosemary Kerr takes us on a strange and magnificent journey across the Australian continent and deep into the hearts and minds of Australians’.

From sacred Aboriginal ‘songlines’; trails blazed by explorers and pioneers; swagmen tramping the wallaby track; to the rise of motor touring in the early 20th century, this is the story of the Australian road and of Australians on – and off – the road. It tells of ‘Bush’ and ‘Outback’ odysseys in search of the ‘real Australia’; surf safaris of the 1960s and 70s that helped to popularise the coastal road trip; grey nomads and backpackers on epic journeys around and across the continent; and 4-WD adventurers, who dream of getting off the road altogether. Rituals and communities of the road; what we eat, where we sleep; and those quirky ‘big’ roadside attractions that have become part of Australian road trip folklore, are all part of the story.

Across the twentieth century images of the Australian road shifted from romantic bush tracks to badlands haunted by serial killers, horror stretches and black spots. How did we get there? As roads and cars propelled us towards the future, why did Australians so often look backwards nostalgically through the rear-view mirror? How and why have some roads become more famous than others? What role has the road played as a stage for political activism and protest? Could the Australian road really be a ‘road to nowhere’?

Roads tell us about ourselves. Australia’s colonial past continues to haunt contemporary Australian society and culture, including representations of the road and road travel, and this is explored throughout the book.

As well as uncovering a wealth of little-known road movies, there are new takes on classics such as The ShiraleeWake in Fright, the Mad Max series, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Wolf Creek. This book will change the way you think about roads and road tourism in this country.



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