Book Review by Hugh King (Chairman, AMHF)
The original documentary Bush Mechanics was screened by our ABC in 1999 and then developed into a series of four episodes, also on the ABC 1n 2001. This initiative has become a part of Australia’s record of its motor heritage. The exhibition ‘Bush Mechanics’ opened at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia in April 2017 with a main objective being ‘to introduce the original Bush Mechanics show to a new generation of Australian and international museum visitors’.
Now we have a catalogue or commentary that accompanies and backgrounds the exhibition. This is available to purchase at present and is a solid, entertaining item that manages to bring on again the feelings of warmth and goodwill that shine through in the TV series. There are narratives about the development and the production of both the series and the exhibition that has been mounted several years later. This aspect is covered well by the people who were on the job at the time.
In terms of motor heritage – there is a very good contribution by Dr Georgine Clarsen of the University of Wollongong, of the Faculty of Law Humanities and the Arts. We can remember Georgine’s work in bringing to air the 2012 series Wide Open Road: The Story of Cars in Australia. She has numerous publications and journal articles on motoring to her credit. In this catalogue she sets out the vital historical perspectives which gave life and cultural importance to the ABC series. The fact that Georgine is a qualified motor mechanic shines through her comments.
One of the people deeply involved in curating the new Bush Mechanics exhibition at the Birdwood Museum is Associate Professor Melinda Hinkson of Deakin University, and her contribution to the catalogue provides context on the Warlpiri people of Yuendumu, where the ABC series was made and from where the majority of the magical cars and skilled owner/drivers originated.
The commentaries and backstories surrounding both the ABC Bush Mechanics series and the new exhibition provide new insights into another aspect of this nation’s motor heritage. It is good they are available to Australians wanting to understand the major impact that cars, especially disposable cars, have on well-being in the outback regions. And it is a short (74 page) well-illustrated beautifully produced item that will be available only for a limited time. Highly recommended.
Catalogue edited by Mand Paul and Michelangelo Bolognese
Published 2017 by The Wakefield Press, South Australia for The History Trust of S.A.