Grey Nomads

Observant readers may have noticed, I did a bit of travelling recently. Ostensibly I was visiting my 92 year old mother in Albany WA as well as a bevy of sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunties etc all living in the state. Coming from Brisbane, I traveled through NSW, SA and then onto Albany. With family matters attended to, I then went North with a view of circumnavigating Australia. I sport a full head of grey hair, am nomadic and of a certain age but I developed a dislike of the Grey Nomads. Not the nomads themselves, more what they have done to the country, or, more so, what the country has done to accommodate them. As an example, two iconic outback pubs - Heartbreak Hotel and the Daly Waters Pub have both degenerated into Grey Nomad Caravan Processing Stopovers. As a younger man I traveled to these exotic place, long before they were included in every Grey Nomad's bucket list and enjoyed the company of drovers, truckies (modern drovers) local black guys, graziers, local lovelies winding up for a big night out, all of whom were serviced by an Aussie publican and bartenders. Subjects of discussion varied but were mainly about the area and its problems, politics, sex and religion - all basic ingredients for a good night, Now the truckies are still there but they are swamped by well dressed, cashed up nomads served by packpackers with an accountant in charge all involved in incessant chatter about Jayco versus Kimberly vans, superannuation, medical procedures, the stock market and 'have you been to the Pilbara yet' type conversations. The soulless thoughts of urban life have replaced the soul of the outback. Pity really.

2 comments

  • Careful Kev, or Bobby 123456789 will be telling you you’ve spelt Daly Waters wrong, or is that incorrectly or should I have said mispelt it? I guess he knows cos he’s a teacher you know.

    Fixed…Kev

  • Kev
    Your thoughts on bush pubs reminded me of Urandangi (better known as the “Dangi”). The first time I visited, I asked the bloke with me (who had been there before) why there was a pile of car keys on the turn-off from the Mt Isa – Dajarra road. Turned out that when the local Murris went into Mt Isa to buy cars (usually rego-expired Holdens or Falcons) they’d rip out the key-start barrel and leave the wires dangling so keys weren’t necessary.
    That way, the car was available for immediate and shared use by anyone on the place. The cars usually lasted about a year. When they died, they were tipped upside down and used for parts.
    I was part of a team back in the 90s negotiating the siting of a new school at the Dangi. It was highly political as the Murris (who outnumbered the non-Murris by about 4 to 1) wanted it built on their settlement about 2 kms out of town, whilst the non-Murris wanted it sited next door to the pub. John Laws and Tony McGrady had been involved and were waiting on the sidelines for the whole deal to go belly-up and become an election issue. The Regional Director wanted a solution which didn’t end up in the media.
    We would get the locals together for meetings which would usually degenerate into total and complete disagreement about everything. From memory, there were three unsuccessful meetings. On one occasion, we stayed at the pub overnight. It was February, and stinking hot, so after a few cold ones at the bar, we set our swags up outside, rather than in the tin shed that passed back then for accommodation.
    I remember slowly waking next morning to a strange and powerful stink. Opening my eyes, I saw, about a foot from my face, the snout of a young camel which was checking out the visitor. Camel breath first up after a night on the turps is not recommended. There were three of them hobbled near the pub.
    Eventually the school was built halfway between the two preferred options, so we pleased nobody. The principal was provided with a troop carrier which was used to bus the non-Murris in each day (all 4 of them) whilst the Murri kids were happy to walk. They were more likely to go to school if left to their own devices. As far as I know the school still operates. Back then lots of kids moved across the border between Urandangi and Alpurrurulam and keeping track of them was an issue.
    Prior to this school there was one operating in the 1930s, but the Principal committed suicide and the school was closed.
    That’s a whole other story.
    You’re right about the Grey Nomads bringing suburbia to the outback – it’s a poor fit. Why anyone would want to live in a caravan for months with all that space available is beyond me. Grey Nomads in their caravans drive me nuts on the Warrego.

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