Where does the outback begin?
My second novel The View From Out Here starts with this question. As we head further away from home in our travels, I ask myself this. The outback is immense with undefined boundaries. So many towns declare “Welcome to the Outback”.
I begin to get a feeling of being outback when I see dessicated paddocks, or when planted crops peter out; when clusters of mallee or mulga hug the road, or cypress pines scratch a living on rocky outcrops.
But this year is different. Recent rains mean dams and creeks are full. Utes are covered in mud, roads are closed and … there is some green.
I asked a woman in West Wyalong if she considered her town ‘outback’. She thought for a moment and said, ‘Not outback … isolated’. That must be how it feels when you drive four hours every few weeks for cancer treatment or to see a specialist on their rare visits to your region.
To the same question, another lady in Condobolin looked askanse and said, ‘Oh no! We don’t feel outback.’ Perhaps ‘feeling’ is the key word? I suspect the concept of being ‘outback’ is a personal thing, one’s own sense of place, for those who live there and for those of us passing through.
The true outback for me is that wonderful red dirt and spinifex… and road trains.