Outback Reading — Bush Biographies & Stories


Sales of my own books, 'Biggest Mobs - Longest Shadows', 'Life as an Australian Horseman' & 'A Million Acre Masterpiece' enable the continuation of recording of life on Australian cattle stations, and these sales are what make this website possible.

I don't sell any books by other authors; please see the note at the bottom of this page.

Subjects included in this page are:

Steele Rudd — Our Greatest Outback Storyteller

Steele Rudd's real name was Arthur Hoey Davis. The University of Queensland Press is to be commended for their 1992 publication of a fabulous collection of his writing. It is contained in a set of four large books titled, ‘The Rudd Family’, ‘A City Selection’, ‘On Our Selection’ and ‘The Old Homestead’.

These days many people have never actually read any of Steele Rudd’s writing yet they dismiss it as unsophisticated, hayseed humour. This view has been encouraged by hideously corny ‘Dad and Dave’ jokes and radio play material written by people who clearly have no understanding of the subject he wrote about or the subtlety of his humour. This rubbish bears little relationship to Rudd's actual writing.

Steele Rudd’s writing is an excellent mixture of classic dry humour combined with gritty rural realities. The tragedies and the joy. Much of the writing will bring tears to the eyes due to laughter or empathy. Any country person who reads these stories will immediately recognise that Arthur Hoey Davis had an exceedingly thorough understanding of rural life. His eloquent, observant and sensitive writing of characters and happenings are as relevant today as they were when written. ‘On Sandy’s Selection’ (contained in the UQP book titled ‘On Our Selection’) is an especially beautifully written classic, well worth reading and re-reading.

Perhaps there are no books in print at present however a good ferret around second hand bookshops will usually turn something up, even the boxed set mentioned above.

Do avoid the hideous ‘abridged’ [condensed] versions of old books. Too many books have been butchered by later editors and publishers who have cut out subtleties and details that are integral to a complete understanding of the story, or the story has been tinkered with to make it more ‘politically correct’. If a story is worth reading then it’s worth reading the whole lot, as the author intended. Later alterations inevitably interfere with the original intentions of the author and change the tone.

Arthur Hoey Davis lived from 1868 until 1935 and he deserves to be remembered as one of Australia's most talented writers, the equal of C.J. Dennis, Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.

The life and times of Steele Rudd — creator of Dad & Dave — on our selection

Eric Drayton, 1976

Lansdowne Press, Melbourne (Victoria)

Priceless biography of ‘Steele Rudd’ (Arthur Hoey Davis), written by his son Eric Davis. Interesting quotes, factual information, family stories — a very valuable record. Touches on the radio ‘lampooning’ of Dad & Dave which unfortunately began decades ago.

Autobiographies, Biographies and Stories of People Who Have Lived in the Bush

Most of these books are not just a good read. They are also very valuable records of cultural significance and historical value.

A Boy’s eye view of the 30s & 40s — growing up on the Atherton Tableland, North Queensland, between 1929 and 1949

Colin Boundy (The Singing Swagman)

Self published, Alderley (Queensland)

Interesting tale of growing up on a dairy farm on the Atherton Tablelands about 60 years ago.

A Son of the Red Centre

Kurt Johannsen, 1992

Self published, Alice Springs (Northern Territory)

Born in a little hut south of Alice Springs in 1915, Kurt Johannsen had an adventurous and inventive life of prospecting, mining, mailruns and building the first roadtrains — amongst other things. A great story about one of Australia’s great bush innovators and the birth of the roadtrain. A great read for anyone interested in the history of Central Australia or roadtrains.

Angels Don’t Go Droving

Dick Scobie/Jim Ditchfield, 2003

Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

An eventful life - from his childhood around Birdsville, to droving, Hidden Valley station in the Northern Territory, then the car accident that put Dick into a wheelchair for more than 35 years.

Australian Outback Yarns; Bull from the Bush

Bob Flatt, 1998 (& reprinted)

New Holland Publishers, Frenchs Forest (New South Wales)

Hilariously told account of a Sydney youngster jackerooing in north Queensland during the 1950s.

Battlers of the Barkly; the Family Saga of Eva Downs

Alf Chambers, 1998

Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

Inspiring story about the Chambers family life on the station they owned on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory, surrounded by large company places. 1936 to 1960. Hilarious and sad stories.

Beaten by a Blow - A shearer's Story ** Very Highly Recommended

Dennis McIntosh, 2008

Viking/Penguin, Camberwell (Melbourne; Victoria)

Fabulous writing plus a thought-provoking and true story result in a book that deserves to win a swag of literary prizes. 'Beaten by a Blow' is arguably the very best rural autobiography I've read. Funny, interesting and very, very poignant. The story of one bloke's dream to own his own place, backed up by sheer hard work and persistence; shattered by harsh realities and a slide into alcoholism. But this is a matter-of-fact recount; Dennis doesn't dwell in self pity. While it primarily concerns his growing up years from 1971 when he began work at the age of 13, up until 1983 when he was working as a shearer, it touches on topics relevant to all of rural Australia (the field of broken dreams) and blue-collar jobs in general, and covers a huge area of eastern Australia - from the closely settled fine-wool growing areas of the Western District of Victoria, through New South Wales' famous Riverina Merino studs up to Bourke, then into central Western Queensland - in particular around Blackall and Longreach - which in recent years have seen a massive shift from sheep into cattle. The rarely discussed topics mentioned range from family farm succession and the fate of 'cocky's' sons who aren't the first born, to unionism (the reason for it, and realities of strike action), to the treatment of rural workers, politics and political history (in particular, the wide comb dispute and increasing numbers of Kiwi shearers), the pressure that an itinerant and casual though well paid line of work puts on family life and the physical stresses of arguably the most physically demanding job in Australia. Plus the nightmare of poor treatment in the health system and having a child with a severe disability.

'Beaten by a Blow' is probably the most thoughtful and accurate social history that I've ever come across and it certainly wins hands down in the rural social history department. As far as I am aware, there is no other book that comes anywhere close to producing as personal a story as this, that is packed with factual information on what life is really like for shearers. Australia may be relatively egalitarian, but every Australian is certainly is not born equal. And it isn't newly arrived migrants that are the worst off. Anyone who needs convincing should read this book - as should anyone born and bred on a farm who takes for granted what they have been handed on a plate.

Above all, what makes this book stand out for me, is the impression one is left of the author. Dennis was the stereotypical live wire with a mind of his own at school - and like so many boys like him - in constant conflict with teachers and ultimately written off by our education system. Clearly he's exceedingly smart, thoughtful, determined and hard working. And exceedingly passionate and sensitive. Such square-peg-in-round-hole boys are treated just as badly by many teachers even today, which is a huge tragedy and massive waste. There is a fork in the road for all these boys - some end up running huge companies or have other very successful careers, some take the other road - to jail. Dennis talks of the horror of being cooped up in windowless factories, and of how being in the bush made his spirit soar, and how he longed for his own place. These feelings are something I can so relate to and it's not often discussed. The choice to live in the bush is often a spiritual one - but something that those who don't feel it, are completely incapable of grasping; they mistakenly think it is all about owning property, which it is not.

'Beaten by a Blow' was recommended to me by my mother's cousin Bill Gray, whom I only found out about in 2006 - because my mother's mother died when she was 7 and she had virtually no contact with that side of the family. Bill worked his way up to owning his own farm by shearing (hard work, persistence plus saving), and he recognises many of the shearers that Dennis has written about, and said what a great (and accurate) read it was. This book isn't for anyone who is faint hearted when it comes to swearing and the blunt realities of life. But without these aspects, 'Beaten by a Blow' would not be authentic. As it was, no doubt a lot was cut out before publication. Dennis McIntosh has apparently since beaten his grog addiction and studied at uni - and his degree in literature shows through in his first book, as it is very well written and edited with uncommon discipline.

The title 'Beaten by a blow' is from the well known song 'Click go the Shears'. It is an absolutely perfect title for the book, because it refers to the best shearer in the shearing shed (the 'ringer') being beaten by one blow (one lap of the shears) by another shearer (who by good luck or good management, picked a bare-bellied sheep to finish on). But as the title for the book, it could also be taken to mean beaten by something else (in this case, you'd probably say it was a shattered dream, which led to a slide into alcoholism).

Before Helicopters and Roadtrains; what was expected of a stockman * Highly recommended

Luke McCall, 2000

The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach (Queensland)

A unique booklet that explains what a stockman’s job and good stockmanship entails. But what really makes this book unique is that it spells out in logical but entertaining detail, the unspoken and sometimes subtle etiquette of traditional stockcamp life. Including vital information that every young bloke who has just left home should know — such as how not to irritate the cook. A small book packed with interesting information, that should be handed to every person new to station life, and guaranteed to get a laugh out of everyone else too.

Beneath whose hand - The Autobiography of R.M. Williams

R.M. Williams & Olaf Ruhen, 1984

Sun Books, South Melbourne (Victoria)

A story of an interesting life. Born in South Australia in 1908, it covers his life in the bush to beginning to make boots and starting up the business now well known as R.M. Williams Bush Outfitters. An enterprising and well-respected Australian, whose story is interspersed with a myriad of interesting historical observations such as: ‘In those days if you came by landau with four horses and a coachman you were royalty. Two horses pulling a carriage of sorts proclaimed you gentry. By buggy and pair you were landed folk. By single harness and sulky, no bells announced you, but at least you were not walking.’

Beyond the Big Run

Charlie Schultz & Darrell Lewis, 1995

University of Queensland Press, Brisbane (Queensland)

Born in 1908, Charlie Schulz went to Humbert River at the age of just 19. Expecting to only be there a short while, he married and stayed until 1979. A good yarn about a battler’s life on a family place and a contrast to life over the eastern boundary, on big company-owned Victoria River Downs.

Beyond the Bluffs

Doreen McGrath, 2001

Self published, Petford (North Queensland)

A follow up to Doreen’s autobiography ‘From the Lime Bluffs’, her life living west of Mareeba. Covers the years 1981-2001. Mentions many of her friends and acquaintances — many of whom are well known in the region. Personable writing by a real character.

Bitten by the Bull Bug

Lennie Wallace, 1997

CQU Press, Rockhampton (central Queensland)

Follows on from Lennie’s autobiography covering the first years of her life on Cape York Peninsula, ‘Leaves from the Peninsula’. Children and hilarious adventures while showing Brahman stud cattle closer to coastal suburbia.

Bloody jackaroos!

John Gilfoyle, illustrated by Harry Bruce, 2006

Self-published, Roma (Queensland)

A book of humorous yarns recounting people's experiences when starting out working on stations - mostly central and southern Queensland, but some further north and west also. Also published the very popular 'Bloody Agents' in 2005.

Bulldust and dreams

Troy Dann, 1999

Bantam, Transworld/Random House

Troy grew up on the Dann family’s Amburla Station near Alice Springs. This book is an account that mentions the stuff-ups as well as the triumphs. An inspiring story of someone who just keeps plugging away despite the knockers and the setbacks, that shows what dreaming big dreams and putting the hard yards in can achieve. A good reminder that the biggest achievements involve the biggest risks, and a willingness to accept failures and still persist is essential.

Bull from the Bush

Bob Flatt, 1998

New Holland Press (Sydney)

Paints a vivid picture of life as a jackaroo in north-west Queensland in the 1950s. Funny, sad, thoughtful. When I read about them lifting the bore casing when there was a storm upstream of the river they had to cross to get home, I laughed so much my husband, who was trying to sleep, got very cranky.

Bush Bashers

Len Beadell, 1971

Kevin Weldon, Willoughby (NSW)

Len Beadell and his crew surveyed and built thousands of kilometres of roads across remote central Australia, between Laverton and Warburton in Western Australia, across towards Coober Pedy (South Australia).

Len was one of those amazing Australian characters — after his hilarious first book ‘Too Long in the Bush’ he wrote a number of others recalling his work. His entertaining description of clouds of flies in the thick mulga and the mishap with the large box of eggs (144 — 1 dozen x 1 dozen, if I remember rightly) are just two of the hilarious things that have stuck in my mind, years after reading about them. His writing has been deservedly popular so his books have been reprinted many times. Len died in 1995 and we are fortunate to have his writing to remind us of his contribution to the opening up of a very uncharted part of Australia, in relatively recent times. More details can be found on his family’s website.

Bush Pilot

Sir Robert Norman OBE, 1976 (then reprinted)

Self published, Cairns (North Queensland)

The book starts in Bob Norman’s childhood in Maryborough, then the family move to Cairns and his flying career in the second world war. This book finishes in 1959, after many interesting stories concerning the legendary Bush Pilots airline started by Bob. Bush Pilots provided a vital service over remote Cape York Peninsula, the Gulf Country and North West Queensland during a time when roads where much worse than they are today. Bob Norman lived an extraordinarily busy and productive 93 years and tributes from far and wide poured in when he died in April 2007. More can be read about this remarkable bloke on the 454 & 459 RAAF squadron page.

Sir Bob and his wife fundraised and donated exceedingly generously to establish the Cairns Campus of Townsville’s James Cook University. The Australian Tropical Forest Institute, completed in 2007, has been named the Sir Robert Norman Building in his honour.

Bush Preacher Bites the Dust

Kerry Medway, 1983 & later reprinted

An Albatross Book, Sutherland (New South Wales)

The entertaining stories of the perils and adventures of an outback minister in South Australia.

Bush Tales and Memoirs

R.L. Atkinson, 1984

Self published, Townsville (Queensland)

Fascinating reminisces of a bush born and bred bloke’s lifetime on cattle stations in the basalt country north-west of Townsville, from the time when he finished school in 1918. Many members of the well-known Atkinson family mentioned.

Bush Tracks & Desert Horizons

Rose Rawlins Coppock, 1999

CQU Press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

Beautifully told reminisces of Rose Rawlins’ childhood on stations around Alice Springs, with her parents Dorothy and Tom Rawlins.

Chasing last light — Aerial mustering 1968-1978 * Highly recommended

Pearl Ogden, 2000

Self published, Darwin (Northern Territory)

These stories only got into print because the blokes concerned have retired, or died - there is no way they’d have been published if they were still flying. And the fact that Pearl was even told these stories indicates the trust they had in her. Very well written, full of people who typify what it is to be an Australian character - independent, capable, practical, hardworking, don’t think twice about bending the rules if it suits, and with a great sense of humour — usually very dry. ‘Chasing last light’ not only records a very interesting but little known field of northern Australian history, and gives a good understanding of how big mobs are mustered, it is full of fabulous quotes and funny stories from mustering pilots who have become legends in their field.

Children in the sun * Highly recommended

Marion Nixon, 1995

Self published, Perth (Western Australia)

I found this a hauntingly evocative story that left an indelible impression of bringing up children from the late 1960s into the 1970s in an exceedingly remote and beautiful part of the northwest Kimberleys, a region I feel fortunate to have visited. It is one of the most memorable books I have ever read, it really touched a chord with me. I just cannot imagine how it felt to leave their paradise, it made me want time to stand still.

Chook on Sundays

Trish Ainslie & Roger Garwood, 1992

Plantagenet Press, Freemantle (Western Australia)

Full of characters, beautifully told and excellent photographs. A great record of Eastern Goldfields history (Western Australia).

Cowboy and his Acquaintances

Pearl Ogden, 1997

Self published, Winnellie (Northern Territory)

The story of Territory character Edward James Collins, commonly known as ‘Cowboy’ or ‘Ted’ Collins, who lived in the Top End from 1908 to 1978.

Dirt Roads and Desert Roses — writing from women in South Australia’s outback

Edited by Catherine Murphy, photos by Italo Vardaro

Published by RICE (Remote & Isolated Childrens Exercise), 2002

Heartwarming & sad stories from 24 station women in remote South Australia, good quality photos.

Doctor on the Landsborough — the Memoirs of Joseph Arratta

Edited by Anne Smith & B.J. Dalton & Dr R.A. Douglas, 1997

James Cook University, Townsville (Queensland)

Recollections of Dr Joseph Arratta’s 35 years as a much loved and immensely respected doctor at Muttaburra (north of Longreach, western Queensland). Told with honesty and humour, clearly a fabulous human being. A poignant reminder of how much has changed in recent years, with the de-population of the bush and difficulty persuading doctors (and wives) to live anywhere other than the suburbs.

Don’t Trot the Bullocks — More tales from the Territory and other places

Bill Hamill, 1998

Seaview Press, Henley Beach (South Australia)

Sequel to ‘From the Top Rail’

Stories of a life spent working around the north, told with a sense of humour.

Droving Days * Highly recommended

H.M. Barker, 1994 & reprinted

Hesperian Press, Western Australia

Unusually thoughtful observations and reminiscences on many subjects such as horsebreeds. For example Arabs, ‘they have more brains than other horses but this is more often a liability than an asset,’ and he goes on to give particular examples. The chapters on horses and aboriginal stockmen are especially interesting. This book is well worth reading.

Failure of Triumph — the Story of Connellan Airways * Highly recommended

E.J. Connellan, edited by Peter Donovan, 1992

Paradigm Investments, Alice Springs (Northern Territory)

EJ Connellan was born in 1912 and grew up in the Riverina, and his resourcefulness was apparent from his early working life. Connellan began his unique airline in 1939 and was forced to sell it just over 40 years later. The introduction by editor Peter Donovan is excellent, and the book is a fascinating but poignant story about a visionary can-do aviator who did great things for the remote residents of the Northern Territory. E.J. Connellan has passed on but his Connellan Airways Trust continues to benefit Australians living in remote areas. A detailed read but highly recommended, especially to anyone interested in Northern Territory history. If E.J. Connellan had achieved what he did in the closely settled far SE of Australia, rather than a long way from our largest cities, he would be a household name.

From the Lime Bluffs

Doreen McGrath, 1981

Self published, Petford (Queensland)

Doreen was born in 1928 and this story runs through her tough childhood into her adulthood in the Chillagoe area of North Queensland. It is a good reminder of how easy it is today when times are tough, compared to the years when she was growing up. Doreen is a real can-do character who has never sat around moaning about her tough start, whereas others might have. ‘Beyond the bluffs’ is the sequel.

From the Top Rail - Tales from the Territory

Bill Hamill, 1983

Mimosa Press Publishers, Charters Towers (Queensland)

Great stories cleverly arranged into chapters on similar subjects, such as camp cooks, camp life, medical stories, old timers & nicknames, bush characters, aboriginal folklore, droving, tourists & staff headaches.

‘Don’t trot the bullocks’ was published as a sequel in 1998.

Great Flying Doctor Stories

Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh, 1999

ABC books, Sydney (New South Wales)

Great Royal Flying Doctor short stories from people living all over Australia; funny, sad, thought provoking. A great read.

Great Working Dog Stories

Angela Goode & Mike Hayes, 1990

ABC books, Sydney (New South Wales)

Funny, sad and interesting working dog stories — mainly the southern half of Australia.

Great Working Horse Stories * Highly recommended

Angela Good, 1995

ABC Books, Sydney (New South Wales)

Fabulous working horse stories that re-reading gets me laughing out loud. Dad & Dave reality humour regarding the frustrations of dealing with recalcitrant steeds — a must read for anyone who has had anything to do with working horses. There is a few photos in the book and they’re excellent too. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it is a gem of a historical record, reminding us all of the lost skills of horsemanship that were once so common, and now relatively rare. In fact I wish there were a couple of follow-up books with more of these stories. Only sorry that my father is no longer around to read the stories too so we could have a great laugh together. The stories in this book are just like the ones he and my uncle related of their experiences growing up in the 1930s — trials and disasters with horses pulling wheat harvesters etc. I can’t remember if dad ever read this book, but if he did, he’d have had tears of mirth rolling down his cheeks.

Heartbreak Corner — A Story of the Tully, Durack and other Pioneer Families of South West Queensland

Fleur Lehane, 1988 & reprinted

Self-published then reprinted by CQU press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

Interesting recount of pioneering station life in a tough part of south west Queensland, between Quilpie, Windorah and Adavale (west of Charleville). There have been relatively few biographies written regarding far SW Qld.

Heart Country — A woman’s inspiring life in the outback

Kerry McGinnis, 2001

Viking, Ringwood (Victoria)

A successor to ‘Pieces of Blue’ that covered Kerry McGinnis’s earliest years. Heart Country tells of the end of droving and settlement of their remote cattle station 'Bowthorn', in the Gulf Country of Queensland. Like the earlier book, a great read.

Hell, West and Crooked & Tom Cole’s other books

Tom Cole, 1988 (& reprinted)

Angus & Robertson/Collins, Sydney (New South Wales)

Tom famously hauled his story before a number of publishers who all knocked it back. The publisher who took it on landed a best seller that was reprinted many times. This is a great read and it’s hard to fathom why any publisher in their right mind would send it away. A great example of how out of touch most publishers are with what the public want to read when it comes to rural publishing — unfortunately many believe outback stories are of no interest to the general public.

Tom went on to publish other books such as ‘Riding the Wildman Plains’ that are good reads also. This is a classic case of ‘don’t get mad get even’. I hope all the publishers who knocked him back learnt all about how popular his writing was, afterwards. Thank goodness someone took it on, it would have been a tragedy if Tom Cole’s writing had not been published.

Horsemen of the Outback — Their Spurs and their Spurmakers

Don J Corcoran, 2003

CQU Press Rockhampton (Queensland)

Great stories of a mob of blokes plus a woman or two; centred around their spurs, who made them, where they worked/how they came by their favoured spurs etc. Fred Gutte’s Wave Hill spurs and a mob of others are included. Most stories are from the Northern Territory, Kimberleys and central/southern Queensland - not far north Queensland. So unfortunately there’s no mention of Bernie Lawrence’s spurs (Mareeba). However it is a great historical record and entertaining reading at the same time. No doubt people contacted Don with more good stories after his book was published (it can be frustrating gathering information for this sort of project, until you’ve actually completed it; then people come out of the woodwork with information you wish you had been given early on). It would have been great to see the publication of an updated version or a sequel, as an even more comprehensive record, but maybe Don was understandably knackered from the hard work involved in his first great effort.

Horses, Shoes and Tales * Highly recommended
- A collection of Anecdotes, Articles and Adventures from Australia’s favourite Farrier

David Farmilo, 2003

Self published, Oakbank (South Australia)

Born in 1940 David spent his early years on the family dairy farm then at 14 headed of to his first job as a jackeroo on Angorichina station. On the first day he was shown how to shoe the horse he was to ride. Thus began a lifetime profession. David Farmilo is not just an observer of all horse behaviour he is clearly an accomplished human psychologist as well, who has a great sense of humour, and he is also an excellent writer. His short piece on ‘horseman or horselover’ is a classic — thought provoking yet hilarious at the same time. A must-read for anyone interested in horses.

I Love a sunburnt torso - and other country musings * Highly recommended

Christina Hindhaugh, 1987 (and reprinted)

Lothian, Melbourne (Victoria)

Hilarious, I can open this book up anywhere and get a good laugh, even though I've read it all before. Although it's possible I am biased, because it's written in a region fairly similar to the one I grew up in, so it's easy for me to relate to. Compulsory reading for all starry-eyed acre chasers/hectare hunters. If attention is paid to what Christina has written (laugh, then think about what she's said), the reader is given a very thorough and accurate understanding of what life is really like on a farm in more closely settled areas of southern Australia. Written a while ago, but the principles still apply. Christina also wrote the excellent book regarding her sister Tamie Fraser, 'It wasn't meant to be easy'.

In the Middle of Nowhere

Terry Underwood, 1998

Bantam Books, Moorebank (New South Wales)

A good story, detailing Terry’s early life in suburban Sydney, then meeting her husband John Underwood while working as a nurse in 1963 and moving to the family cattle station 'Riverin', in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory.

Jillaroo — Station Life in the Outback

Susan Cottam, 1990

Viking O’Neil, Ringwood (Victoria)

Born in 1946, Susan Cottam emigrated to Australia in 1966 as a ‘ten pound pom’ to fulfill a dream to work as a jillaroo for 2 years in Queensland, to escape the dreary wet weather of her homeland. Susan later emigrated with her Scottish vet husband, who took up a DPI job in Longreach (going from one climatic extreme to another — from not enough cloudless, hot skies to too many). Interesting tale of an energetic and enterprising woman who launched into self-publishing postcards and books, selling them at the conveniently close Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame as well as other businesses in Longreach. ‘Life around Longreach’ and ‘Winton to Longreach’ are Susan Cottam’s two booklets that feature the central western Queensland landscape.

Kavanagh on Queensland Again — A collection of Lawrie Kavanagh’s columns from the Courier Mail

Lawrie Kavanagh, 1991

Self published, Brisbane (Queensland)

Great stories, a good laugh, he doesn’t beat about the bush. A spade is a b- shovel. If you wanted to explain to someone overseas what a typical Australian character was like, you’d hand them this book.

Kings in grass castles

Mary Durack, 1959 (& reprinted many times)

Lothian, Sydney (New South Wales)

Epic story of the Durack and Costello familys travels to the East Kimberley, via Thylungra station in SE Queensland's channel country, and their settlement around the the Ord River. Australia's best known story of a poineering family.

Land of Waltzing Matilda

Peter Knowles, 1994

Boolarong Press, Brisbane (Queensland)

Published 25 years after his first book (Whirlwind Country), more great photos by someone who spent decades living in remote Western Queensland. Sensitive images showing the changes in seasons and natural bush on the station he grew up on south of Winton in central western Queensland.

Leaves from the Peninsula

Lennie Wallace, 1990

Pinevale Publications, Kuranda (North Queensland)

Fabulous 1950-1960 account of Lennie’s life as an adventurous girl, growing up in Cooktown but determined to take up work on Peninsula cattle stations. Intertwined with many other well-known Peninsula families such as the Gostelows and the Shephards.

Letters from Laura — A Bush Schoolmaster in Cape York Peninsula, 1892-1896

Millais Culpin, edited by Frances Mackeith, 1987

Published by the History Department of James Cook University, Townsville (north Queensland)

A series of fascinating letters written by a young Englishman Millais Culpin, in charge of the very isolated one-teacher school in Laura, far north Queensland. Vivid descriptions of the life, landscape and people in the remote tropics when the region was being settled.

Lipstick, swag and sweatrag — Memoirs of a Patrol Padres wife, The Australian Inland Mission, 1947-1955

Beth Beckett, 1998

Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton (Queensland).

A sensitive and interesting account of Beth’s time travelling around the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia with her minister husband.

Looking back the way I came

Glenda Morris, 1991

Pinevale Publications, Kuranda (Queensland)

Interesting account of Glenda’s life growing up in far north Queensland. A tough start in a tin scratcher’s camp then on to family life and a successful nursing career.

Mail for the Back of Beyond

John Maddock, 1986 & reprinted

Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst (New South Wales)

Stories of the ingenuity and hardships of the mail carriers from Port Augusta up to Birdsville and beyond.

Memoirs of a Goat Racer

John de Groot, 2009

Yorkbrook Pty Ltd (self published?), (Brisbane?)

John de Groot's years growing up in Barcaldine (central western Queensland) from when he moved there in 1956 at the age of 7, and his goat racing exploits. An entertaining reminder of how dull life is for over-protected, active young boys, these days - most of whom aren't even allowed to ride their bikes to school (let alone train and race goats in their spare time).

No Place for a Woman — The autobiography of Outback Publican, Mayse Young

Mayse Young/Gabrielle Dalton, 1991

PAN Macmillan Publishers, Sydney (NSW)

Great story of the legendary Mayse Young — her childhood then adult life at Pine Creek Hotel in the Top End of the Northern Territory, during the 1930s onwards.

No Sundays in the Bush — An English Jackeroo in Western Australia, 1887-1889

From the diaries of Tom Carter, 1987

Lothian Publishing, Melbourne (Victoria)

Fascinating, factual recount of a young poms adventures in the wilds of the ‘colony’ during a time when European settlement was new to remote Australia.

North and Aloft; A personal memoir of service and adventure with the royal Flying Doctor Service in far northern Australia

Dr Timothy O’Leary, 1988

Amphion Press, University of Queensland, Brisbane (Queensland)

Dr Leary was born in 1925 and lived until 1987. This book recounting his experiences on the various missions and stations in far north Queensland and Cape York Peninsula was published in the year after his death. Very sad that he did not see how much others would enjoy reading his stories. I laughed until the tears poured out while reading about the beef drop, something I’ll never forget, it conjured up a priceless image.

Not without his Sons; Auvergne Station, Nt - A Memoir

Lloyd Fogarty, 2008

Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

An excellent autobiography of the rough living conditions around the lower reaches of the Northern Territory's Victoria River on the AACo-owned Auvergne Station, until 1979; beginning at Caldervale (near Tambo in central Qld) in 1950. Lloyd is unusually matter-of-fact and honest in expressing his opinions on other people he encountered in the bush over these three decades. The authors of most similar books consistently avoid expressing such blunt opinions, and thus reducing the air of authenticity and credibility of their story. There are idiots in the bush just as in the city; and pretending otherwise simply makes a reader wonder what else is being glossed over. 'Not without his sons' also contains some interesting history on the Australian Agricultural Company and Connor, Doherty & Durack - including personal opinions on management.

Reading this book just after seeing the film 'Australia', I found it incredible that Lloyd Fogarty must have been writing his book at the same time that Baz Luhrmann was producing his film - and neither would have seen the other's work in progress. While the stories are not similar, there are a lot of uncanny tie-ins. Lloyd discusses the rough roads and river crossings, living conditions and a whole lot of other details which tied in with what appeared in 'Australia'. Even the book's photographs are a reminder of the film - such a photograph of a truck similar to the one in 'Australia' crossing Timber Creek. Auvergne wouldn't have been far away, as the crow flies, from the mythical 'Faraway Downs'. These details in common, between the 'Australia' film and book 'Not without his sons', aren't actually a co-incidence - they merely confirm the thoroughness of Baz Luhrmann's research.

Nothing Prepared Me

Edna Eckford Quilty, 1999 & reprinted

Self published, Caloundra (Queensland)

Refreshingly honest and interesting account of Edna's life on Bedford Downs and Springvale in the East Kimberleys of Western Australia. The book runs from the 1930s until 1983. Not a romantic whitewash, and relatively recent history — a very good read. Tom Quilty’s name has become immortalised in the legendary Tom Quilty Gold Cup Endurance Ride, the annual 160km event started by Tom Quilty and R.M. Williams.


Lawrie Kavanagh & Hugh Sawrey, 1993

Queensland University Press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

Hilarious stories from Queensland’s Channel Country, Gulf and Cape York Peninsula. Lawrie was a Brisbane Courier Mail journalist and the late Hugh Sawrey was a great painter of stockmen and outback landscapes. A pair of great characters, as is apparent in their book.

Packhorse drover * Highly recommended

Bruce Simpson, 1996

ABC books, Sydney (New South Wales)

Bruce was born in 1923 and this is a very well told yarn about his years as a drover, mainly up until the 1960s. Many interesting observations for example on the distinctiveness of hats and what ringers wore. Bruce has produced other books too and is a talented poet (there are a lot of people around singing his words) and he has an avid interest in explorers such as Ludwig Leichardt.

Packhorse & Waterhole — with the First Overlanders to the Kimberleys

Gordon Buchanan, 1933 - Angus & Robertson

1984 — facsimile edition printed by Hesperian Press, Victoria Park (Western Australia)

The adventurous life of the legendary explorer and ‘Paraway’ drover - Nat Buchanan. 1826 to 1899; born in Dublin, exploits through northern Australia to Wave Hill, then retirement at the end of his life in Tamworth. As told by his son Gordon (originally published in 1933, more than 30 years after his father’s death.)

People of the Australian High Country

Klaus Hueneke, 1994 (& later reprinted)

Tabletop Press, Palmerston (Australian Capital Territory)

More than twenty years of work went into producing this excellent record of personal stories of high country residents. An invaluable cultural record, a good laugh, and it contains some excellent historical photographs. Klaus also published 'Huts of the High Country' and 'Kiandra to Kosciusko'.

Pieces of Blue

Kerry McGinnis, 1999

Penguin Books, Ringwood (Victoria)

Heartfelt story that begins with the death of Kerry McGinnis’s mother when she was just six, and covers the years spent droving with her father and siblings. A hard life, beautifully written. Her book has done deservedly well and she has published a sequel, ‘Heart Country’.

Pioneers of the Kimberley — the Maggie Lilly Story

Anne Marie Ingham (Maggie Lilly), 2000

Halstead Press, Sydney (New South Wales)

Maggie was born around 1913. This is an interesting yarn about East Kimberley history, and surviving tough times in the Wyndham area. The book has an amazing and heart-rending postscript regarding the late appearance of a relation that she never knew existed.

Pioneers of the Tumut Valley

H.E. Snowden, written in 1967 but not published until 2004 (& later reprinted)

Halstead Press, Sydney (New South Wales)

On the Road with Slim

John Elliott, 2002

ABC Books, Sydney (New South Wales)

Filled with information about how Slim Dusty started off and his life on the road, from the early days until 2002. John Elliott grew up in Blackall and has worked as a professional photographer for many years as well as writing for and editing a number of magazines. He went on many trips with Slim Dusty and his family so got to know them very well over the years. It shows in his book.

Outback Achiever — Fred McKay
Successor to Flynn of the Inland

Maisie McKenzie, 1990

Boolarong Press, (Queensland)

The story of Fred McKay, born on a Mackay cane farm in 1907. The book chronicles his life helping residents of the outback, the RFDS and the Australian Inland Mission (AIM).

Outback Women

Melissa McCord, 1986 (& reprinted)

Doubleday, Lane Cove (New South Wales)

Beautiful portrait photographs of women living in remote Australia, accompanied by brief biographies.

Red Dust Rising — the story of Ray Fryer of Urapunga

Marion Houldsworth (Ray Fryer), 2004

CQU Press, Rockhampton (Queensland).

Ray Fryer was born in the 1930s and grew up just west of Townsville. This is his interesting, serious and funny account of building up Urapunga station on the Roper River in the Northern Territory, a virtually undeveloped lease he took up in the early 1960s. And I could just see the AAT Kings bus pull up, ‘not a good time now mate’!

R.M. Williams — I once met a man...
True stories from one of Australia’s greatest folk heroes

R.M. Williams, illustrated by Helen Goldsmith, 1993 (& reprinted)

Cornstalk Publishing, Sydney (New South Wales)

Inspiring stories of interesting characters R.M. Williams has encountered through a long life. With some beautifully evocative watercolours by Helen Goldsmith.

See you at sundown

Ted and Margaret Flamsteed, 1997

Self published, Brisbane (Queensland)

An interesting story of managing Lorraine Station in Queensland’s Gulf Country, from 1969 until the mid 1990s. The station employees working to stand the garden trees upright again after being flattened by a cyclone, made a big impression.

Sitdown up North,

Ted Egan, 1997

Kerr Publishing, Sydney (New South Wales)

This book more or less takes up where ‘The Paperboy’s War’ finished, when Ted got waylaid in the Northern Territory, while heading for his gaucho adventure in South America. It covers the years 1949 to the early 1970s — Ted’s time working for the government and with aboriginal people, in various places. Well written, as all Ted's books are.

Skydoctor — based on the adventures and experiences of a flying doctor in the 1950s * Highly recommended

Dr Len Dawson, 1995 (& reprinted)

Self published, Wingham (New South Wales)

Excellent stories of Dr Dawson’s time working for the Charleville base of the RFDS, covering a huge region - from Charleville to south of Thargomindah, west into the Lake Eyre region of northern South Australia, north to Bedourie and Stonehenge, and eastwards almost to Springsure and Injune.

Gives a good understanding of the hazards of living in remote areas a long distance from medical help. The perils of such isolation remain the same today, except for better communications provided via telephones and two-way radios.

S’pose I die

Hector Holthouse (Evelyn Maunsell), 1973 & reprinted many times

Angus & Robertson, Sydney (New South Wales).

Evelyn Maunsell was born in England in 1888 and this book covers her arrival in Cairns in 1912 to be married to Charlie and embark on her life on Mount Mulgrave then Wrotham Park station northwest of Cairns (Far North Queensland). This book is an excellent reminder of how relatively recent European settlement is in northern Australia. In the north we’re only a few generations away from the original pioneers. The book could easily have been twice as long, it’s a great read. Has been reprinted many times.

Still Bleating about the Bush

Marie Mahood, 1997

CQU Press, Rockhampton (central Queensland)

‘Still Bleating about the Bush’ contains more hilarious stories written with a typically dry sense of bush humour, making light of the hardships during the 1970s beef depression on the family cattle station ‘Mongrel Downs’ in the Tanami Desert region of the Northern Territory. Marie has been writing for many years, and has written many other books including ‘Icing on the Damper’ and ‘The Nutmilk chocolate gang’.

Stockmen — A collection of Portraits celebrating the lives of the Stockmen and Drovers in the Australian Outback

Photographs by J Barry Anderson, 1991

Allen & Unwin, North Sydney (New South Wales)

Blokes at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame Drovers Reunion, in 1990. Beautiful portraits accompanied by short biographies.

Sunshine and shadow — The life of an Outback Family on Cape York Peninsula, 1944-1986

Vivienne Gostelow, 1988

Pinevale Publications, Kuranda (North Queensland)

Cape York remains the most isolated region in Australia — very large in area, with poor roads and residents who are not especially affluent. Most of the Peninsula is very flat and not very rocky so heavy rain makes the roads impassable for weeks or months each wet season. Vivienne paints a very accurate picture of the hardships of Peninsula life, which really isn’t much easier these days.

Riveren — My home, our country

Terry Underwood, 2000

Bantam Books, Milsons Point (New South Wales)

An interesting book of personal family photographs and comments on the Underwood family station, Riveren, in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory.

Telegraph Tourists — Crossing Australia with ‘Vauxie’ and ‘Baby’ in 1929

Frank White & Penryn Goldman, 1983

Jimaringle Publications, Mount Martha (Victoria)

A factual account of an adventurous motor vehicle trip through the outback — probably a trip they wouldn’t have dared to do in 1929 if they’d known about what it would be like before they set off. A great reminder of how new our roads are in central and northern Australia, and how difficult it was to drive through the inland several generations ago.

The Boss Drover and his Mates * Highly recommended

Anne Marie Ingham (Clarry Pankhurst), 1996

Halstead Press Publishers, Sydney (New South Wales).

Clarrie Pankhurst was born in 1921 and this is the really interesting account of Clarry’s years as a drover based in Camooweal. Sadly he died a few years ago however his wife Emily lives in north Queensland and still travels about to visit mates. I felt really fortunate to have her at the launch of A Million Acre Masterpiece, giving us handy, practical tips on how to set up a book signing, which was old stuff to her but completely new to me.

The Paperboy’s War

Ted Egan, 1993

Kerr Publishing, Sydney (New South Wales)

Ted Egan was born in 1932 and this is his first autobiography, covering his first sixteen years, while in Melbourne. This book ends when he set sail for South America to be a gaucho (but got waylaid in northern Australia). ‘Sitdown up North’ is the sequel. Like all Ted’s books, really well written, very interesting and very entertaining.

The Rivers of Home, Frank Lacy — Kimberley Pioneer

Marion Nixon, 1978 then reprinted

Self published, Perth (Western Australia)

Priceless recording of a pioneer settling Mount Elizabeth station in the remote northern Kimberley. A really interesting read.

The Whirlwind Country

Peter Knowles, 1969

Paul Hamlyn P/L, Sydney (New South Wales)

Peter’s first book of interesting photos, painting a picture of a harsh part of Australia.

Peter was born and bred on the family owned station south of Winton. He was awarded the very well deserved title of ‘Australian Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ in 1997. His images have the authenticity and empathy only obtainable by living the life and observing nature through many years of differing seasons. Great step-by-step black and white photographs of bronco branding, with explanations.

‘Til She Dropped her Strides — A tribute to an Australian lifestyle

Trish Ainslie & Roger Garwood, 1991

Plantagenet Press, Freemantle (Western Australia)

Kimberley characters, beautifully told and excellent portrait photos.

Tim Fischer’s Outback Heroes and communities that count — the new spirit of the bush

Peter Rees and Tim Fischer, 2002

Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest (New South Wales)

Inspiring current stories of individuals and towns spread across rural Australia.

Traditional bush horsemanship

J.F. Simpson, 2001

Self published, Severnlea (Queensland)

A comprehensive recount of traditional stockhorse handling, from breeding stockhorses and handling colts to some excellent, common-sense advice regarding the common riding and horse-handling mistakes - based on personal experience.

Under the Chloroform Tree — from Jackeroo to Studmaster

Rowand Jameison, 1984

Shoestring Press, Wangaratta (Victoria)

Born in 1901, Rowand Jameison started school in Mundingburra just a few blocks blocks from where we now live, but spent his later working life in the New South Wales southern Riverina sheep country not far from where I grew up. His book covers nearly 60 years, from jackerooing in Queensland around the end of World War I to managing Uardry merino stud from 1951 to 1971. Told with a dry sense of humour (as the title suggests), and an interesting read.

Wind on the cattle * Highly recommended

Merice Briffa (Pic Willetts), 2002

Self published (printed by Auscribe Enterprises, Oxley, Queensland)

Recollections of 50 years of droving with very thoughtful cattle handling observations. For example, his comments regarding working cattle with the wind (page 53). There is a lot to be learnt from this book.

101 Adventures that got me absolutely nowhere

Phil O’Brien, 2005

ABC books, Sydney (New South Wales)

If you don’t like swearing don’t buy this. But if you like a great laugh, this will have tears rolling down your face. I nearly split my sides when I read his description of his (very short) career as a waiter in Melbourne — I’ve had the odd feed in some of those places, and could picture it perfectly. It is refreshingly honest, very sharp.

Outback History Books, More Factual Than Biographical

Australian Woolsheds

Harry Sowden

Cassell Australia, North Ryde (New South Wales)

Large format book with interesting black and white photographs and information on a large number of shearing sheds, in all wool growing states except Western Australia (unfortunately not included; presumably due to time/travel constraints; however, a great pity).

Back O’ Cairns

Ion Idriess, 1958 (& reprinted)

Angus & Robertson, North Ryde (New South Wales)

Just one of many books on outback Australia by legendary adventurer Ion Idriess. A prolific author and avid recorder of outback pioneering history. Other books include ‘The Wild North’, ‘The cattle king’ and ‘Flynn of the Inland’. Ion Idriess lived from 1889 until 1979 and had a remarkable life — working in nearly every job that existed in the bush at that time, from droving to tin scratching and buffalo shooting, in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. In total he wrote 47 books. An amazing Australian. Well worth reading about his life in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Bagmen Millionaires — Life and People in Outback Queensland

John Andersen, 1983 & reprinted

Lloyd O’Neil, South Yarra (Victoria)

A book of stories about many of the cattle stations and the families who live on them, north of a line between Mackay, Hughenden and Mt Isa; i.e. mainly the Downs country, Gulf and Cape York Peninsula. As a journalist covering northern Queensland for Rural Press for many years, John Andersen got to know his subjects well and heard detailed tales that outsiders wouldn’t necessarily be told.

Beef Cattle Australia 1788-2009

Russell Reed, 2009

Acacia Press, Coorparoo (Queensland)

A hefty book (366 pages) written by Santa Gertrudis Australia General Manager, Russell Reed. Prior to publication referred to as the Hordern-Kleberg project because the two beef industry identities who commissioned the project and published it are Australian woman Sarah Myer (nee Hordern, owner of Yulgilbar Station, Baryulgil, Nthn NSW) and American woman Helen Groves (nee Kleberg, of King Ranch, Texas USA). Both women have a life time association with the beef industry - in particular with Santa Gertrudis cattle, and quarter horses.

Big mobs

Glen McLaren, 2000

Freemantle Arts Centre Press, Freemantle (Western Australia)

A unique book, very well researched, that gives a good understanding of the complete history of Australia’s pastoral industry while blowing away a few old myths.

Cattlemen of the High Country

Tor Holth, with Jane Barnaby, 1981 (& reprinted)

Weldon Publishing, Willoughby (New South Wales)

Tom’s book is arranged into chapters on different families and different areas — a valuable record of rapidly disappearing heritage and a tribute to the families who have run cattle in the High Country for generations.

Day in the Outback

Mark Coombe, 2002

Self published, Rockhampton (central Queensland)

Beautiful photographs from Mark Coombe’s cattle station visits.


Words by Bruce Simpson & Photographs by Darren Clark, 2014

Harper Collins

Illustrated memoir of bushman & poet, Bruce Simpson.

FARM — Life on the Land

Philip Quirk, 1997

The Weekly Times, Kew (Victoria)

Farming photographs from southern Australia, with some great quotes from rural residents.

Frontier Country — Australia’s Outback Heritage
Volume one and Volume two

50 authors, numerous photographers (many unknown), 1989

Weldon Russell, Willoughby (New South Wales)

Two hefty books, with text written by more than 50 authors. The photos are very interesting but because many were sourced from slide libraries and collections there is a very irritating paucity of detail in many of the captions. All published photos should have the photographer’s name published just as all writing should have the writer’s name published. And it would be good to know exactly where all the photographs were taken. But useful books nonetheless.

Kimberley Scenes — Sagas of Australia’s last Frontier

Edited by Cathie Clement & Peter Bridge

Hesperian Press, Carlisle (Western Australia)

A collection of stories dating back to around 1850 to the early 1900s, regarding the settlement of the Kimberley region of Western Australia — exploration, tin and gold mining and the pastoral industry.

Kings of the Cattle Country
The Epic Story of Australia’s Beef Empires

Nigel Austin, 1986

Bay Books, Kensington (New South Wales)
Large format book which concentrates on what some would consider to be Australia’s most prestigious (‘important’) cattle stations owners (not employees).

Leather Dust Tin & Rust

Mark Coombe, 1998

Self published, Rockhampton (central Queensland)

Great photos of sheep and cattle stations, black & white and colour, with poetry by Carrie Schofield.

Nelia Branch of QCWA — 75 years — A collection of memories including Nelia District History

Compiled by Judy Fysh, 1999

Self published, Nelia (Western Queensland)

Interesting local history of Nelia, a tiny community roughly halfway between Townsville and Mt Isa in north Queensland. Bob Lord’s recollections are particularly interesting, especially the comments regarding the frequency of droughts decades ago (a timely reminder to all who believe severe droughts are a modern invention).


Scott Bridle, 2012

Viking (Penguin), Melbourne (Victoria)

Aerial photographs reminiscent of Richard Woldendorp's photography.  Taken on cattle stations in the eastern NT & Western Queensland, by chopper mustering pilot, Scott Bridle.

Outback Stations

Dan McIntosh & other outback photographers, 2014

ABC books (Harper Collins)

Cattle station photographs taken by station cook Dan McIntosh, plus photographs from other contributors from around Australia, to the Facebook page called "Station Photos".

Pastoral Properties of Australia

Peter Taylor, 1984

George Allen & Unwin

Large format book featuring selected cattle stations and sheep/wool properties in various parts of Australia.

Pioneers Country — The story of the pioneering country over the range inland from Cairns, North Queensland

Glenville Pike, 1976 (& reprinted)

Pinevale Publications, Kuranda (North Queensland)

One of numerous books written by Glenville Pike regarding the settlement of far north Queensland. Full of information & quotes regarding the fledgling pastoral, mining and timber industries. Glenville has done a massive job over many years recording north Queensland history, not just writing and self-publishing his own books, but by helping many other people to publish their own memoirs. Without his decades of dedicated work, so much interesting history would have been lost forever.

Racing Legend — The First 100 years of the Oak Park Race Club

Linley Lethbridge, 2004

Pictorial Press, Corinda (Queensland)

Large book detailing the history of the Oak Park races (west of Townsville, between Einasleigh and Charters Towers), with references to many of the well-known families of the district, including the Atkinson and Collins families.

Roping in the History of Broncoing

Darrell Lewis, 2007

Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton (Queensland)

Chronicles the start of broncoing (bronco branding) in Australia - origins, development, and replacement when better yards meant branding was done in calf cradles instead. Excellent, authentic photographs supplied by numerous residents of the bush, explanatory diagrams, a useful map, endnotes, index and a comprehensive bibliography of reference material. A few of his assertions I would dispute (eg broncoing used in a smart way can actually be very useful and efficient even today, so it ought not be dismissed outright as 'old fashioned and no longer practical'), but overall it's an excellent book of historical significance and very well researched - clearly a lot of work went into producing it.

Stock movements in Australia

Nan Broad & Rica Erickson, 1999

Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Longreach (Western Queensland)

Excellent booklet detailing explorer’s routes, droving trips and stock routes right across the continent.

Sandhills and Channel Country

Carolyn Nolan, 2003

Diamantina Shire Council, Bedourie (Far Western Queensland)

The history of the Diamantina Shire (Birdsville, Bedourie and Betoota) from prior to the 1870s to 2003. This is a fascinating, arid part of Australia. Interesting information and historical photos, a credit to the Diamantina Shire Council for commissioning such an excellent record of the region.

Shearing in Victoria's Western District

Tracey Kruger, photographs & text, 2014

Self published, Penshurst (Victoria)

Excellent collation recording woolsheds and shearers in the historic fine wool growing region of Victoria's Western District

Station life in Australia - Pioneers and Pastoralists

Peter Taylor, 1988

Allen & Unwin Australia, North Sydney (New South Wales)

Produced during the year of the bi-centenary of Australia's white settlement, 'Station life in Australia' goes through the history of the pastoral settlement of Australia, from squatters to bullockies, shearers, drovers and station cooks.

Taste of the Land

Mark Coombe, photographs, 1996

Self published, Rockhampton (central Queensland)

Great photos of sheep and cattle stations, black & white and colour, with poetry by Carrie Batzloff.

The Australian Stockman

Text Marie Mahood, Photographs Melinda Berge, 1988.

Kevin Weldon Production, Sydney (New South Wales)

Large format book on a variety of stations with information on outback life, including distance education and remote area medical services.

The Big Run — The story of Victoria River Downs

Jock Makin, 1970 (& reprinted)

Weldon Publishing

A comprehensive history of Victoria River Downs station with some very interesting historical photos.

The Drover

Al Mabin, 2014

Self published, Roma (Queensland)

Book on the 2013 droving trips walking 18,000 of Tom Brinkworth's newly acquired cattle, through drought affected country in Northern Australia to southern NSW.

The Long Paddock

Tim Lee, text, and Andrew Chapman, photographs, 2014

Five Mile Press

Book on droving / stockroutes, by the ABC Victorian rural journalist for "Landline", Tim Lee, and Andrew Chapman, well known for his books on woolsheds (primarily in Victoria).

The Love of Horses - a photographic celebration

Pat Slater, 2007

Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd, Archerfield (Queensland)
A book of photographs of horses taken between 1976 and 2003, mostly in south-eastern Australia. Most of the horses are endurance types such as arabs, and thoroughbreds, but in addition to the many photographs of these recreational horses competing in events, there are many paddock images.

The Nine Pillars of Cobb & Co

Dick Gledhill, photographs by Evan Morgan, 2002

NCS Publishing, Pimlico (North Queensland)

Beautifully photographed tribute to the Cobb & Co coach route between Winton & Boulia.

The Stockman — Australian Outback Heritage

Various authors — Dame Mary Durack, Hugh Sawrey, R.M. Williams, Olaf Ruhen, Ron Iddon, Keith Willey & Marie Mahood, 1984 (& reprinted)

Kevin Weldon, Willoughby (New South Wales)

Writings by a variety of knowledgeable and well respected outback authors/artists, each on a specific topic relating to Australian stockmen and life in the bush.

Wings Over the Cape — The world’s longest Mail Runs

Glenville Pike, early 1990s

Published by Cape York Air Services, Cairns (north Queensland)

Excellent book with short chapters on many of the different cattle stations in the Gulf and Peninsula visited by Cape York Air mailplanes. Cape York Air Services was previously known as Air Queensland, and the business began as Bush Pilots. The book has an interesting introduction by Bob Norman on the commencement of Bush Pilots airways in 1954, and how mailplane services began.

You can’t make it rain — the story of the North Australian Pastoral Company 1877-1991

Margaret Kowald & W Ross Johnston, 1992

Published by NAPCo, Brisbane (Queensland)

NAPCO commissioned this book so the authors had access to company archives, consequently the book contains interesting historical photographs and information that otherwise would have been inaccessible.

Outback Fiction

There is not a lot in this category, because apart from Steele Rudd, most of the rest is rubbish written by people who’ve lived their whole lives in suburbia, with some ridiculous romantic dreams inspired by a few idle months spent cruising around the bush during the temperate months, or inspired by weekend stays on a well-to-do friend's hobby farm a stone's throw from Sydney. Consequently the majority of non-fiction centered around outback Australia has either glaring factual errors or is simply irritatingly vague, or features characters and situations that are not realistic or believable. Most fiction stories centered in the bush are distinctly patronising. Writers unfamiliar with this part of the world face an uphill battle trying to get the language and subtle cultural differences right because they're just not perceptive enough to realise what they've missed coming to grips with. (A bit like the old saying regarding wise people being the ones that are smart enough to realise there's a lot they don't know; the more someone believes they know about the Australian bush, nationwide, the less likely it is that they know very much at all.)

Henry Lawson — The Master Storyteller — prose writings (short stories)

Edited by Professor Colin Roderick, 1984

Angus & Robertson, Sydney (New South Wales)

A very comprehensive book of Henry Lawson’s short stories with a good index and an interesting introduction on his life by Colin Roderick.

Stop Whispering Annie!

Marion Nixon, 1995

Self published, Crawley (Western Australia)

Fabulous suspense-filled tale of bird smuggling, based in the remote north Kimberley, an area Marion knows well as she lived there for a number of years.

The Waddi Tree

Kerry McGinnis, 2006 (& reprinted)

Penguin Books, Camberwell (Victoria)

Kerry McGinnis's third book - a beautifully told story of the childhood and youth of the fictional Jim McAllister - growing up on 'Arcadia' station in central Australia. An idyllic start, followed by a typical bush accident, tough teenage years and a great ending. Kerry has written about the life, work, characters, situations and landscape of remote Australia - the life she knows like the back of her hand. Reading this would put off anyone thinking of writing a story set in the bush, who isn't 100% familiar with it. Because this book would be almost impossible to better - anything else would look feeble by comparison. The Waddi Tree is as authentic as it gets - if you want to read good fictional bush stories, then make it number one on the list. Heart Country and Pieces of Blue are Kerry's earlier books.

Would I lie to you? The goanna drover and other (very) true stories

Ted Egan, illustrated by Peter Viska

Viking O’Neil, 1991

A swag of Ted’s tales that are a great laugh and promote the impression that the Territory really is an interesting place full of characters. Didn’t know whether this book should go into fiction or non-fiction (how much is pork pies, Ted?), but it’s such a good laugh and not an autobiography as such so I’ve stuck it into Fiction.


I only sell my own books 'Biggest mobs - Longest Shadows', 'Life as an Australian Horseman' & 'A Million Acre Masterpiece'; and it is sales of these books that make this website possible.

I don't sell any books written or photographed by others.  Books by other authors are listed on my website to help my customers find additional bush books they may be interested in, and to assist other authors by publicising what they have written.  Many are self-published, and even if published by a large publishing company, usually there's not a lot of income for the author - even when a huge amount of work has gone into their book, and the result is fantastic. 

Anyone seeking these books must do their own research as I don't have the administrative resources to find out where copies may be available at present. Most of the books above would be long out of print, but available secondhand.


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The contents of this website must not be reproduced or used in any way whatsoever without a specific written agreement — arranged prior to use. Unauthorised copying is illegal and copyright infringements will be pursued. For further information please see the copyright section.
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