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The social universe of Kuninjku trucks
Jon Altman and Melinda Hinkson (Australian National University)
One of the features that distinguishes the Kuninjku community from their Arnhem Land neighbours is that they were the last group to move from the bush into the Maningrida settlement in the 1960s and the first back out to their customary lands when it became possible to do so in the early 1970s. This move back onto country was facilitated by the purchase of one of the first tractors owned by Aboriginal people in the region. This purchase secured for the Kuninjku considerable admiration from their neighbours who had until then regarded them with some disdain. Drawing on research conducted since 1979, this paper will explore the question of why access to vehicles has played such a central role in the process by which Kuninjku people have re-established themselves as a viable community in late modernity. Much more than simply a mode of transport, trucks help facilitate a wide range of social interaction. The paper will explore some of the ways in which trucks are used in distinctively Kuninjku ways for hunting, shopping, art production, the maintenance and intensification of social relations, and the public demonstration of of authority. The paper asks how is it that core Kuninjku values are reflected in Kuninjku truck use?

Cruising, Zoning and Spacing Out: Western Arrernte on the Move
Diane Austin-Broos (University of Sydney)
Diane proposes to discuss some different types of travel among Western Arrernte using cars in and around Ntaria. Travel between outstations and local urban/settlement sites, circling around Ntaria or Alice Springs, or long distance trips to relatives all involve different frequencies of occurrence, different parties of passengers, and moods in the car – not to mention different types of vehicle. Mood and emotion on the trip are important dimensions travel and reveal a particular cultural repertoire. Varieties of prestige attach to different types of trip, vehicle and company. She will also address the changing experience of space and time that motor cars have brought.

Hearing the Road: audible presences and absences in traversing cultural terrain
Ros Bandt (The University of Melbourne)
This paper deals with road culture from an auditory perspective. A range of sonic phenomena such as audible stories of the iconic ute, country music song, soundscape recordings, inform us of the changes in culture using the ear as a barometer of that change. The invention of road culture while providing us with these rich sonic contributions has also silenced other sounds, those of the smaller bypassed remote wheat towns who have lost their identities due to the domination of road transport and the closure of rail networks. Listening to the road is constantly informing us of the changing relationships through sonic presences and absences.

Not so much cruising as kicking: the affective animation of Central Desert women’s art
Jennifer Biddle (Macquarie University)
This paper is about the spatiality enacted in certain contemporary women’s paintings of the Central Desert: Kathleen Petyarre, Dorothy Napangardi and others. Rather than the more common-place interpretation of these works as representations of country - flora, fauna, ‘maps’ of Ancestral travels - this paper argues instead that these paintings are embodied evocations of an intimacy of country and flesh. The focus here is not on what these paintings mean but what they do. Drawing on the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Sartre, I argue that these paintings mark and make canvas literally alive and enlivened; literally the same stuff as skin and in turn, of country. Space is neither experienced nor expressed as a horizontal plane of cartography, vision or travel but rather a verticality as emergent and pressing in these paintings as the very ancestral sentiments and sensibilities evoked. Analogous to the rumble and humm of the motor car, these works animate and flood the viewer with a no uncertain fecundity; evoking the experience they purport to represent. It is precisely this intercorporeal imperative - that is, our bodily responses and responsibilities - which are here required to enact what Warlpiri call ‘witness’ - not a passive viewing of inert art object but a constituitive activation of Ancestral potency. Thus, this paper concludes with a discussion of the intercultural implications of the radical politics engendered by these works; a politics not of recognition or reconciliation but of ‘witnessing’ as an affective form of being called to account.

Redex Trails – the Flip Side
Georgine Clarsen (University of Wollongong)
In August 1953, almost 200 cars set off from the Sydney Showgrounds to roar around the Eastern half of the continent in (and here the words are repeated over and over in all the accounts) the longest, toughest, most ambitious, demanding, no-holds-barred race, which "fuelled a nation with excitement and caught the public imagination." It was to be the biggest, meanest, most challenging event, organizers claimed, since the New York to Paris Run of 1908. And the two Trials that followed in 1954 and 1955 were each progressively longer and more demanding, circling the entire continent, as close to the coast as tracks allowed.

This paper returns to that post-war moment of Australian automotive optimism - a time when Australia was ready to climb off the sheep's back and become a fully modern, auto-mobile nation. The paper, however, works to remember what has been systematically dis-remembered in narratives of male automotive gladiators. Stories of women’s participation in the trails were enormously popular at the time, though now quite forgotten. They provide fresh perspectives on an ongoing colonial project of creating a new nation in an old country.

Driving the Law: Four-Wheel Driving and the Possession of Australian Space
Christy Collis (Queensland University of Technology)
Four wheel drive (4WD) vehicles and 4WD ‘footsteps of the explorers’ expeditions have become intensely popular in Australia since the 1970s: 4WDs rumble through Australia’s suburbs, 4WD expeditions trace imperial explorers’ routes, and the ever-increasing number of 4WD dealerships attests to the fact that Australia is now the top per capita consumer of 4WDs in the world. 4WDs in Australia, in fact, are no longer simply a make of car, but a major cultural formation: there are 4WD magazines, 4WD websites, 4WD travel narratives, 4WD clubs, 4WD political lobby groups, 4WD expos, and a 4WD Party member of the NSW Upper House. The emotional responses that 4WDs elicit in Australia signal that 4WDs are bearers of a heavy cultural load: 4WDers refer to themselves in quasi-spiritual terms as ‘disciples’ and ‘the faithful’, while non-4WDers deploy similarly hyperbolic rhetoric to decry 4WD vehicles and their users as “monsters” and “selfish, murderous lunatics”. Clearly, there is more at stake in 4WD debates than automotive efficiency and dimensions. Since the 1970s, 4WDs have assumed key positions in the production—representational, physical, and political—of Australian space. Just how the massive upsurge in 4WDing is implicated in the contest for possession of Australian space is the focus of this article.

But what does this recent surge of 4WDing in Australia have to do with territorial law? This article argues that 4WDs and 4WDriving have become a potent popular cultural site through which Australians—and in particular white Australians—negotiate and articulate legal constructions of Australian land and land rights. This article thus focuses its critical attention on the significant role of 4WD culture in the ongoing cultural and legal struggle for the possession of Australian land. Specifically, the article directs its critical attention at the ways in which Australian 4WD spatiality since the 1970s has worked to uphold the legal and conceptual basis for white continental possession: terra nullius.

“You got any Truck?” Vehicles, mobility and decentralized service provision in remote Indigenous Australia
Bill Fogarty (Australian National University)
Service provision in remote Indigenous Australia is highly dependent on vehicle availability and profoundly affected by usage constraints. This paper seeks to explore elements of conflict and cultural misalignment in the intercultural exchange between service providers and those Indigenous people dependent on vehicles for service provision. Drawing on the example of education provision to remote Homelands in the Arnhemland area of the Northern Territory, as well as previous ethnographies of mobility, ownership and exchange in Indigenous Australia, the paper outlines a re-alignment of service provision using a decentralized, mobile model of delivery. Based on these case studies, the paper proposes a rethinking of the importance of transport in program implementation, resultant outcomes and their relationship to Indigenous lifestyle and cultural imperatives.

From camel ‘boy’ to flash Dodge ‘driver? The role of transport in the art and life of Albert Namatjira and its misrepresentation in the public domain.
Alison French (Australian National University)
Albert Namatjira (1902 – 1959) chose to become a professional painter. He adopted painterly techniques and modes of representation that were regarded to be the property of western artists and the means of projecting the euro-centric visions. Namatjira's watercolours and those of his successors were interpreted for a long time as a symbol of the assimilation and subordination of Aboriginal traditions to introduced forms. The critical reception of his art and the public representation of his life, reflect major shifts in wider Australian society and its engagement with Aboriginal Australia. This paper considers ways in which, unique modes of transportation, not only foster and sustain an art practice, but also foster and sustain myths and stereotypes, to position the reception of the artist and his art.

From the Beaches to the ‘Burbs: On the Emergence of Contemporary Modified-Car Culture in Australia
Glen Fuller (University of Western Sydney)
The emergence of the first institution of contemporary modified-car culture in Australia can be located in the early 1980s with the birth of Street Machine magazine. Street Machine evolved from another magazine, Van Wheels. There was a period of a year in which a hybrid magazine, Van Wheels & Street Machine, was published. Van Wheels targeted enthusiasts of the panel van subculture. Street Machine incorporated the panel van subculture in a broader conception of modified-car culture that (allegedly) included any enthusiasm for modifying cars produced after 1948.

The shift from Van Wheels to Street Machine signals broader shifts in popular culture. Van Wheels published articles with such titles as "Workers Vans UNITE!" and "Dole Bludgers’ Guide." It was indicative of a historically specific subculture that emerged in the political context and cultural milieu of the 1970s. The first issue of Street Machine not to carry the Van Wheels masthead radically shifted the social influences. It a featured a photo spread of a street machine with neo-fascist graffiti as part of the setting, and introduced the reactionary columnist, Brian Plankkman.

The film Mad Max (Miller 1979) can be read through this contrast. The failure of the Rockatansky family panel van leads to the death of Max’s wife and child. The becoming-mad Max seeks revenge in his street machine, the Interceptor. Mad Max was ranked number one in the "Top 100 Car Flicks" of all time by Street Machine readers (Fuller 2003). Using the shift from Van Wheels to Street Machine and the transition in Mad Max as a guide this paper shall stake out a number of differences between the panel van subculture and street machining so as to get a better understanding of the emergence of contemporary modified-car culture.

Laina Hall (University of Sydney)
Since the mid 1920s leisure motor touring in Australia has captured the popular imagination. Not only did the car provide independence, but the mile by mile experience of the land, the lure of the horizon and the opportunity to explore unbeaten tracks saw Australians adopt the car as the best way to uncover the vastness of home.

Most of the many non-fiction accounts recounting the journey offered an accompanying route map and this paper investigates the way in which the experience of overlanding is translated into a visual representation through the route map. Rather than an official guide to destinations visited these maps function to compress the style of travel, attitude to mobility, motivations and impressions of the various overlanders for immediate consumption by the reading audience. By considering route maps over a period of time, from 1928 to 2004, the impact of developing infrastructures in terms of cars, roads and official maps on overlanders’ experiences of mobility can also be explored.
While the car may be the means to go the route maps are distillations of experience and overlay the personal journey onto the familiar outline of the nation. They chart a continuum of discovery through the windscreen and hint at the importance of automobility in understanding experiences of the land.

Standing Truck and Running Trees
Vivien Johnson and Jeremy Long (Australian National University)
Like some weird monument to the role of the motor vehicle in the recent history of the Western Desert peoples, the burnt out hulk of Len Beadell’s supply truck stands dark with rust and sinking slowly into the sand beside the road that runs from Kintore to Kiwirrkura. These days, Aboriginal owned Toyotas purchased with painting money and laden to the roof racks with passengers ply the Kintore-Kiwirrkura road, showering Beadell’s truck with dust as they speed by. Much that has happened in Aboriginal Central Australia since Beadell made that road, including the establishment of Kintore and Kiwirrkura and the painting movement itself, would not have been possible without it. From the motor vehicles transporting them into government settlements, the tribesmen and women would soon see the trees running. Designed originally to facilitate whitefellas’ access to their country, the network of roads crisscrossing the desert that Beadell created in the 1960s also facilitated the tribespeople’s departure - and a generation later their return. These same roads then became journey lines of communication and artistic interchange between a network of homelands communities sustained by the painting movement which had its origins in Papunya during the years of exile. In this paper, we will trace the history of the motor vehicle in Western Desert society and its relationship to the art movement, from the pre-road days of Long’s ‘Pintupi patrols’ through Michael Jagamara Nelson’s hand-painted BMW M3 race car signifying the start of the market boom in desert art up to the present day, when cars have become the currency for which paintings are exchanged, and Toyotas are status symbols in a society where mobility - of self and others - remains a prerequisite for survival.

Kiera Lindsey (University of Melbourne)
Roads perform a vital function in the imaginary, cultural, historical and everyday life of Australians and offer a dynamic way of reflecting upon our national self. Characterised by linearity and mobility, roads inscribe actual and cultural space with order, purpose and meaning. Such inscriptions can be understood heuristically by retracing acts of traversing and hermeneutically through the application of narrative theory that interprets a road's distinctive grammar, syntax and signs. By thinking of the road as a spatial narrative that consists of multiple acts of traversing, we can trace the parallel process through which established trajectories and inscriptions have been reiterated or rewritten and codes of meaning constructed and consumed. This paper develops this methodology by applying it to Australia's most used road, The Hume Highway.

Road movies, Realism and ‘Australian Gothic’:
The shifting transformative space of the road in Australian film

Susan Luckman (University of South Australia)
Despite it being originally a US genre, Australian film has adapted the road movie and made it into a unique reflection of various aspects of a manifold national psyche. While the road may continue on film as a metaphor for life itself, Australian-made road movies have tended to represent the road journey not so much romanticised existential personal experience, but rather more as an ambivalent site of personal discovery. For instance, films such as Mad Max and The Cars That Ate Paris problematise the more optimistic vision of the American road movie tradition in the process creating what Jonathan Rayner (1997) refers to as an ‘Australian gothic’. In the Australian context, it seems, the very real dangers of driving and the knowledge of this loom large; roadside shrines and the rising road toll all equate to a hardwiring of the road to the possibility of physical—not just existential—death, and mitigate against the attainment of freedom realised via the road in the genre more broadly. Instead, ‘escape’ is either not achieved at denouement (Backroads) or is highly ambiguous or pyrrhic (The Cars That Ate Paris), and the story takes place alongside a natural environment which tends to be equated with isolation and menace – terra nullius.

In 2005, this paper seeks to consider the contemporary status of the Australian road movie. Does it still perform this ‘gothic’ role? Or in this age of 4 wheel drives, recognition of Aboriginal custodianship of country and increasing gender awareness, are our various relationships with the non-urban, interior spaces of the continent becoming less fraught? Or in this conservative time of relative prosperity and aspirational suburban growth, is there too much comfort and too little questioning about bigger social issues for us to need films which dare to explore the human psyche - for better, or worse? Paper presentation (including powerpoint) with excerpted screenings from the films discussed: Mad Max, The Cars That Ate Paris, Backroads and Japanese Story).

Wide Open Road
Mark Mordue
This presentation tries to come to grips with how we become 'Australian' through the road, and how this becoming has been mapped in song, poetry, novel, painting and the cultural habits/habitats that spring from it, be they urban, suburban, outback, white European or indigenous or somewhere on 'the road between'. It is a personal essay, both for me and for the people I interview about the road, who talk as much about their moments on it and encounters along it as any larger ideas, aesthetics or philosophies. In this sense Wide Open Road acknowledges that our becoming process is an act, physical, psychological, spiritual - it is caught up in movement as much as reflection. To speak of an Australian culture or question it's existence (as so many do) is impossible without having been in some way involved with the act of movement across the face of the land. An act that is often unconscious, but no less poweerful in it's hum for that. ‘Voice’ is crucial to the development of the piece as figures as varied as musicians Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers (You Am I) and Neil Murray, artists Tim Storrier and Ian Smith, film directors David Caesar and Bill Bennett and many others, reflect on the road and how it has influenced their work and their lives. Indigenous voices, surf filmmakers, poets, historians, academics, and racing car legend Peter Brock are all quoted. In the end one sense the way in which the road has become a spine through which we might look at ourselves. How the road travels not just across the land but through how we reflect upon ourselves.

So let’s now, get back there, to this present: presenting memory flows in flux
Hamish Morgan (Monash University)
Drawing on the work of Deleuze and Derrida and my own experience of living in a remote Aboriginal community (Ululla) for two years, I consider the possibilities of becoming between image, memory and event, between present, past and future and between perception, thought and sense, all this, while driving my car on the way to Ululla.

Through the poetics of memory, traveling and writing I diffuse any possibility of neat distinction between these concepts and I continually break with and interrupt any possibility of re-presentation. This nonetheless, as is the way, produces the very ground for this paper, albeit a rather deterritoriallised one. Continuity and sense and ultimately a line of argument is sustained through the image/ metaphor/ concept/ experience /event of first going to, and writing about, Ululla. It sounds kind of heavy but most of the paper is devoted to the kind of writing below.

The whole trip my mind was encountering sensory information, the smell of red dust, the sway of my body, the road, the car; my eyes looking for bumps, potholes, places to slow down and speed up, my body, my mind, my car. Thoughts were free to proliferate over the bumps and rattles and squeaks. I am predicting what is around corners, imagining what is over the next hill. Wondering what this country means - how to make sense of it and respond to it in a more meaningful and less mechanical way than by the changing of gears and by turning the wheel, by changing speeds and trajectories. I am imagining how I will respond in the future to this country, what it will mean to me, and to others, beyond this present of first encounter…

Vehicle terminology in Australian languages
David Nash (AIATSIS & Australian National University)
Indigenous Australians original encounters with motor vehicles have led to their forming terminology in their languages for this new concept. I survey the words in Australian languages which encompass 'motor vehicle' as a sense, and some related terminology (vehicle parts, other vehicles, related actions). The lens of loanwords and coined terms will be used to detect evidence of vehicles seen as "objects of desire and exchange, actors in subsistence, ceremonial and market economies and sites of deep projective identification". Preliminary results show mixed evidence. I draw particularly on my experience in central Australia, and on vocabularies recorded from elsewhere around Australia. In areas where non-motor vehicles were already known, those terms were simply extended (loans of 'cart', 'wheelbarrow'). Where the first encountered vehicles were motorised, a relevant borrowing from English is common (such as from 'motor car' or 'truck'). Sometimes an existing word of the language has its meaning extended, so for instance a 'coolamon' word acquires the sense 'vehicle, boat' (revealing that it had a central meaning 'carrier'), or some common attribute is metonymically chosen (for instance 'fast', or the manufacturer's name). Some cultural associations are discussed, some of which show associations less expected. In central Australia a person's customary vehicle can, like a pet, be assigned to the appropriate (father's) subsection, at least when affectively highlighted; however the vehicle is not referred to by a kin term, and is not usually given a individual name.

The Link Up Car
Peter Read (Australian National University)
For more than twenty years the organisation Link-Up Aboriginal Corporation has been taking the Stolen Generations home to meet their families of which they were deprived so long ago. As children they were almost always removed in a car. They always go home in one.
The trip home in the Link Up car from the starting point (usually Sydney) to the family base can sometimes take more than a day. The time in the car on the way there and back is a time for reflection, reassurance, music, soul-searching, painful memories, expectations and fears. The Link Up car holds many memories. With some help from David McDougall's film Link Up Diary Peter will talk about some of them.

Driving Between Places: Mobility, Visibility and Relationship in Central Cape York Peninsula
Benjamin Richard Smith (Australian National University)
In central Cape York Peninsula, moving and seeing lie at the heart of relationships to both people and places. From the bush camps at the ‘threshold of colonization’, through the lived spaces of reserve, town and cattle stations, to the contemporary township of Coen and surrounding Aboriginal homelands, mobility and visibility have remained key aspects of a co-constituted life-world. This paper examines relationships to people and place in three different, but interlinked contexts: everyday life in the township of Coen, driving through country, and the region’s Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme. In each of these contexts, movement and visibility mediate distinct ways of ‘being-with’ others, reproducing particular relationships. In Coen, town space is ‘brought close’, or collapsed into ‘camp space’ through the use of vehicles and particular practices of seeing and making-visible. Many of these practices of visibility themselves depend on vehicular mobility. Driving through country acts to ‘collapse space,’ producing new modes of spatial experience and transforming both people-place relations and country itself. The CDEP scheme reiterates administrative concern with Aboriginal mobility, subjecting indigenous people to ongoing surveillance. Across these three contexts I develop a phenomenological analysis, arguing that what appear to be quite different practices of mobility and visuality involve a common structure of ‘bringing-closer’ that underpins the relationships through which selves come into being.

"Now we got truck everywhere: making country miles in the north Kimberley."
Tony Redmond (Australian National University)
Whole communities in Indigenous northern Australia regularly travel together in a "community mutaka", leaving only a few older people back at their settlement, making the concept of "moving communities" very real. This compact sociality is intensified once in town where the various community members who have arrived on that vehicle tend to stick to it as though it were an exoskeleton or a second skin which holds them together. The notion of containment here is strong, since the travelers are usually forced tightly together on the tray of the truck, wrapped up in various pieces of bedding or clothing to keep out dust or rain and wind. This sense of containment is variable in its intensity according to the particular modes of intersubjectivity which are prevailing in a particular spatio-temporal frame. For instance, during traveling for funerals or initiation ceremonies the hierarchised and gendered organization of space both between the travelers within their truck and between these enclosed members and the surrounding social world is at its most intense, creating an inward-looking, centrifugal group of bodies which finds its most extreme manifestation in bodies entirely obscured beneath blankets and tarps while passing through an area where law ceremonies are occurring. In contrast, a traveling group who have been drinking alcohol in town and are consuming the remains of their purchases en route to a home settlement tend to be at their most outwardly demonstrative, entropically scattering their emptied containers and their high spirits across the country.

Vehicles in many cultural worlds tend to be highly personalised by those who use them, reflecting a high degree of investment of the subject’s body-ego onto the vehicle. Reflecting on Euro-Australian usages of personalised numberplates, truckies’ use of women’s names on their cab panels, or just the way we might duck our heads driving under a low bridge or branch immediately show this. This personalisation/corporealisation, aptly captured in the way we talk about a car’s "body", "head lights", "tail/arse-end", is no less true in the Indigenous Kimberley social world where it nevertheless takes on specific local forms.

What the "personalised" vehicle for Ngarinyin people also implies is that the vehicle comes to be objectified as something containing a conflation of relationships in a way which is congruent with Fred Myers’ claims that Pintubi people, for example, "view ‘country’……as the embodiment of kin networks and as a record of social ties that can be carried forward in time" (1988:65). In other words, people traveling on board one of these vehicles not only endure the manifest discomforts of traveling this way, but also endure (in the sense of persist) with a certain kind of intersubjectivity against a shifting panorama of space and time.

Passing Through: Perception of Place and the Driving Experience
Katharine Willis
The paper will describe the experience of place as effected by the car. It will propose that the proliferation of roads and the ubiquity of the car as a means of transport alter the cultural perception of place. More specifically contemporary car travel creates ‘non-places’, a term coined by anthroplogist Mark Auge to describe transient spaces for traffic, communication and consumption, from inside a car on the highway to the transit zones of an airport.

The experience of ‘non-place’ is multi-faceted since both the transit space itself; the space formed by and for the purpose of transport, and also the relation that individuals have with these spaces, can equally be said to define the condition.

The car driver relies on visual perception for the vast majority of tasks, and the field of vision is controlled by the framing of the windscreen. The in-car experience of place is passive and remote, and the experience of driving is marked by a lack of sensorial input, aside from that perceived by the eye. Physically the driver is inactive, and has less opportunity or motive to stop or explore or choose a route than a pedestrian or cyclist. Consequently the car interior is isolated from the external environment, and as such the driver can become passive and disengaged from the external landscape. This dislocation is further accentuated by the speed at which the vehicle travels; a factor that reconfigures concepts of location and creates a manifest transition between the experience of driving and that of stopping at a location.

The discussion will conclude that the spaces created in the immediate vicinity of roads and highways cease to function as places in their own right, and their distinct identity is effectively erased. Instead these sites are transformed into zones of isolation and ambiguity; experienced only whilst ‘passing through’.

Swamp Dynamics
Bronwyn Wright (Charles Darwin University)
Bronwyn has been visiting a ‘wasteland’ on the edge of Darwin's northern suburbs known locally as 'The Swamp' for 15 years. Her work on cars has links to the stealth associated with graffiti artists and the flamboyant play of the theatre. It is based on intimacy with the site, daily visits, observations of seasonal variations and an anonymous interaction or dialogue with a young predominantly male ‘hoon culture’.
For the young men and boys in the prime of their suburban warrior hood it’s a place to spin out in old cars, or stolen cars, 4WD’s or on motorbikes. Plenty of active ‘circle work' - donuts and burnouts are part of the energy of the Swamp. The Swamp is littered with the wreckages of disintegrating, abandoned cars. These blackened, crumpled metal bodies provide her with an opportunity.The weather participates as the rain and sun work on the car too. One could say the work is collaborative involving interaction by unknown persons. This is our environment. This is our shared space.

Eventually the car bodies return to the earth.

The cars in their various stages of transformation are symbolic mediators between earth and technological man. The car bodies wear away, crumble and disintegrate as the land itself is torn and worn and as our own bodies tire and retire.

Chasing the Sun: A Cultural History of “Grey nomads”
Louise Yabsley (University of Sydney)
During the twentieth century, travel in retirement has grown to become increasingly important for Australian tourism. Retirement is an important stage which opens doors to new opportunities and travel can act as a “transition rite”, helping to make the change from working life easier. Changes in socio-economic factors have allowed senior travel to grow significantly. The decision to travel extensively in retirement could be seen as an attempt to embrace a new life of adventure and freedom.

Travel in retirement has been studied primarily in sociology and marketing. A study of “grey nomads” in cultural history will illustrate the evolution of this phenomenon as well as draw historical links to culture, place and travel in the twentieth century.

“Grey nomads” represent the antithesis of the stereotypical Australian retirement. They choose to ignore the idea of retirement as a quiet end to working life and take advantage of superannuation to invest in a new lifestyle. By driving, they see Australia in the best way possible: up close and on their own terms. Three things define “grey nomads”: retirement status, mode of transportation and destination.

In July 2004, I recorded oral history interviews of retirees travelling in Far North Queensland. The interviews offer an interesting contrast to secondary sources and highlight the different attitudes of “grey nomads”. Conflicts arise over relationships between different modes of transportation and the identification with concepts of “traveller” or “tourist”. These face-to-face interviews when coupled with new sources such as online web diaries offer new historical insight into “grey nomads”. I will examine the relationships that “grey nomads” have with their destination, in terms of place and cultural identity, as well as dispute some of the popular stereotypes of “grey nomads”.


© 2005 The Centre for Cross-Cultural Research The Australian National University. CRICOS Provider Number: 00120C