Why is Central Australia unsuitable for living

Life in the outback

Fiction and reality

In comparison to Miller's fiction "Mad Max", life in the outback looks downright peaceful in reality: For decades now, one no longer has to fear attacks on long journeys through the lonely steppe.

You realize that this part of Australia is not lawless at the latest when you exceed the speed limit and have to pay a very high fine.

The outback primarily stands for isolation, loneliness and monotony, which grow the further you move from the next larger city or settlement. In the deep outback, many things that are commonplace for city dwellers become real challenges: Where do I shop when the nearest supermarket is a two-hour flight away? What if I am seriously injured and who is teaching my children?

Like 100 years ago?

Despite the adverse circumstances, around 170,000 people live in the outback. Many of them report that they came because of the vast land and the great freedom. Most of them, however, have been drawn to the wasteland by work. They earn their living as gold or opal diggers, sheep shearers, cattle boys or cowboys.

Even most Australians in the big cities believe that time has stood still in the outback.

However, at least on the large farms in the outback, there is no longer any trace of a cowboy idyll, as we know it from Hollywood films. Herds of sheep and cattle are so large that the cowboys have to round them up with helicopters. The agricultural experts of the outback not only sell their cattle on the world market, but also their technical innovations in the field of cattle breeding.

Soldiers of fortune are dying out

The prospectors come much closer than the farmers to the cliché of a stubborn and backward loner who lives in self-chosen exile. Many describe this type of person as a little cranky. Who goes into solitude of their own free will, only with the vague hope of finding a large lump of gold or an opal at some point?

Adventurers from all parts of the world are drawn to the outback to dig for hidden treasures. But their great times are coming to an end. When the gold rush struck Australia in the mid-19th century, it was indeed possible to find gold near the surface of the earth. Today miners need expensive tools that have to be constantly repaired and replaced.

For many, the gold finds are just enough to make ends meet. The odd loner has no chance against the large mining companies equipped with modern technology. Probably the gold digger will soon disappear from the scene as well as the wandering sheep shearer ("Swagman").

Chauvinism and excessive drinking

The life of the people in the outback is hard and full of privation. During the week, the focus is on work. What else can you do when the next opportunity to meet people is hundreds of kilometers away?

At the weekend, the majority of the rural population is drawn to the nearest pub. In return, they happily accept an hour-long drive on gravel roads. In the pubs there are often heavy bouts of alcohol, which many have been looking forward to all week.

These events are only partially suitable for women, because the deeply rooted chauvinism of men is still in full bloom in the numerous remote drinking halls of the outback.

The Australian macho culture has even given its protagonists names: "Ocher" is the name given to beer-bellied, drinking men who prefer to spend their time with friends in the pub, not without first ordering their wife to the stove. "Sheila" is the name of the kind of woman who goes along with it without complaining.

But since the 1970s at the latest, the Ockers and Sheilas have largely given way to a more modern image of gender roles, at least in urban Australia. For city dwellers, the bras that hang from the ceiling in some outback pubs look like a relic from days gone by.

Learning and living in solitude

The people in the outback not only have to come to terms with the loneliness, but above all with the problems that the vastness of the country brings with it. A separate teaching system has been established for school-age children, for example: At "school on air", the teacher teaches the children in the outback via radio. The pupils are regularly brought home by post plane with written documents for learning.

Some postal airlines also bring the farmers small purchases with them. Above all, however, the postman offers the opportunity once a week to exchange the latest gossip about the neighbors who are also on his flight route.

Flying Doctors

The clergyman John Flynn founded the "Royal Flying Doctor Service" in 1928 in cooperation with the Australian airline Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service). The so-called "Flying Doctors" are doctors with special training. They can diagnose minor injuries by radio and recommend appropriate medication. Every resident of the outback always has the most important standard medicines to hand in their medicine cabinet.

In the event of a serious accident, the doctors are on the spot immediately. From one of the 23 stations strategically distributed across the outback, you can reach any point in the entire outback in a maximum of two hours.