of the Never-Never
9, 1995 21:00
20:33 Toowong, Queensland :: 24 AUG 94
Mrs. Aeneus Gunn begins her autobiographical account of the year
1902 by introducing the setting and characters as follows:
We are just some of the bush-folk of the Never-Never.
Distinct in the foreground stand: The Maluka [Aeneus Gunn], The Little
Missus [Mrs. Aeneus Gunn], The Sanguine Scot, The Head Stockman, The Dandy,
The Quiet Stockman [these last four being hired hands], The Fizzer [mailman],
Mine Host [hotel manager], The Wag, Some of our guests, A few black "boys"
and lubras [lubra means aboriginal woman], A dog or two, Tam-o'-shanter,
Happy Dick, Sam Lee [first Chinese cook], and last, but by no means least,
Cheon[replacement Chinese cook]-the ever-mirthful, ever-helpful, irrepressible
Cheon, who was crudely recorded on the station books as cook and gardener.
The background is filled in with an ever-moving company-a
strange medley of Whites, Blacks, and Chinese; of travelers, overlanders,
and billabongers, who passed in and out of our lives, leaving behind them
sometimes bright memories, sometimes sad, and sometimes little memory
And All of Us, and many of this company, shared each
other's lives for one bright, sunny year, away Behind the Back of Beyond,
in the Land of the Never-Never; in that elusive land with an elusive name-
a land of dangers and hardships and privations yet loved as few lands
are loved-a land that bewitches her people with strange spells and mysteries,
until they call sweet bitter, and bitter sweet. Called the Never-Never,
the Maluka loved to say, because they who have lived in it and loved it,
Never-Never voluntarily leave it. Sadly enough, there are too many who
Never-Never do leave it. Others-the unfitted-will tell you that it is
so called because they who succeed in getting out of it swear the will
Never-Never return to it. But we who have lived in it, and loved it, and
left it, know that our hearts can Never-Never rest away from it.
Geographically the Never-Never means Australia's Outback. Most
of Australia's geographical area at the time was considered Outback, Bush.
In fact, this is still true. You will find the particular section of Never-Never
in which these events occurred in the Northern Territory some 200 miles
south-east of Katherine.
The book begins with The Maluka and The Little Missus arriving
in Darwin on their way to the cattle station he will manage. There the
local women are astounded that Mrs. Gunn, until now a woman of refinement
and culture, intends to accompany her husband into such an inhospitable
Then Darwin came in twos and threes to discuss the situation,
and while the men offered every form of service and encouragement, the
women-folk spoke of a woman "going bush" as "sheer madness".
"Besides, no woman travels during the Wet," they said, and the
Maluka "hoped she would prove the exception."
But she'll be bored to death if she does reach the homestead
alive," they prophesied; and I told them they were not very complimentary
to the Maluka.
"You don't understand," they hastened to explain.
"He'll be camping out most of his time, miles away from the homestead,"
and I said "So will I."
"So you think," they corrected. "But
you'll find that a woman alone in a camp of men is decidedly out of place";
and I felt severely snubbed.
The next time some politically correct dolt explains to me with
their common-sense wisdom that the male patriarchy is entirely responsible
for keeping women in a position of meek servility, I shall direct them
to the above passage.
A brief explanation of the term "the Wet." Australia,
particularly north of the Tropic of Capricorn, experiences a cycle of
two seasons, the Wet and the Dry. The Wet occurs during the summer stretching
from October/November through March/April. The Dry makes up the remaining
months of Winter. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Australia's annual
rainfall comes during the Wet, while nearly none will fall throughout
It was a delightful train -- just a simple-hearted,
chivalrous, weather-beaten old bush-whacker, at the service of the entire
Territory. "There's nothing the least bit officious or standoffish
about it," I was saying, when the Man-in-Charge came in with the
first billy of tea.
"Of course not!" he said, unhooking cups from
various crooked-up fingers. "It's a Territorian, you see."
"And had all the false veneer of civilization peeled
off long ago," the Maluka said, adding, with a sly look at my discarded
gloves and gossamer, "It's wonderful how quietly the Territory does
Even today the bush can strip pretensions from your shoulders
so adroitly you won't miss the burden until your return to 'civilization'
when they're necessary again.
18:27 Perth, Western Australia-Australia :: 9 FEB 95
I've been sitting on this one for quite some time. I think it's
about time I stop kidding myself that there's to be any more expansion
on these thoughts. In particular, the book's in a storage box somewhere
in Vancouver, so I can no longer quote from it. . .
Patrick. -- Responses Sought --
If you can no longer square your feminism
with your real-life experience,
then something has gone seriously wrong.