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Australian bush

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Title: Australian bush  
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Subject: Outback, History of Australia, Australian cuisine, Music of Australia, Cinema of Australia, Slim Dusty, Australian literature, Hans Heysen, Australian country music, History of New South Wales
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Australian bush

For other uses, see Bush (disambiguation).

"The bush" is a term used for rural, undeveloped land or country areas in certain countries.

Usage by country


The term is iconic in Australia.[1] In reference to the landscape, "bush" refers to any sparsely inhabited region regardless of vegetation. The bush in this sense was something that was uniquely Australian and very different from the green European landscapes familiar to many new immigrants. "The Bush" also refers to any populated region outside of the major metropolitan areas, including mining and agricultural areas. Consequently it is not unusual to have a mining town in the desert such as Port Hedland (Pop. 14,000) referred to as "The bush" within the media.[2]

The bush was revered as a source of national ideals by the likes of poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson, and contemporaneous painters in the Heidelberg School, namely Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin.[3] Romanticising the bush in this way was a big step forward for Australians in their steps towards self-identity. The legacy is a folklore rich in the spirit of the bush.

The term bush is also affixed to any number of other entities or activities to describe their rural, country or folk nature, e.g. "Bush Cricket", "Bush Music", etc.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Bush primarily refers to areas of native trees rather than exotic forests, however the word is also used in the Australian sense of anywhere outside urban areas, encompassing grasslands as well as forests.[4]

The New Zealand usage of "bush" probably comes from the word "bosch", used by Dutch settlers in South Africa, where it meant uncultivated country.[4]

Areas with this[which?] type of land cover are found predominantly in the South Island, especially in the West Coast region stretching from Fiordland to Nelson, with the east coast having been deforested except for parts of Kaikoura and the Catlins. Much of Stewart Island/Rakiura is bush-covered. In the North Island, the largest areas of bush cover the main ranges stretching north-northeast from Wellington towards East Cape, notably including the Urewera Ranges, and the catchment of the Whanganui River. Significant stands remain in Northland and the ranges running south from the Coromandel Peninsula towards Ruapehu, and isolated remnants cap various volcanoes in Taranaki, the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and the Hauraki Gulf.

From the word comes many phrases including:[5]

  • bush-bash – to make one's way through the forest, rather than on a track or trail (cf. American English "bushwhack[ing]", "bushwack[ing]", or "bush-whack[ing]").
  • bush shirt – a woollen shirt or Swanndri, often worn by forest workers.
  • bush lawyer – the name of a number of native climbing plants or a layman who expounds on legal matters.
  • bush walk – short day walks (hikes) in the bush
  • going bush – to live in the bush for an extended period of time, which may include "living off the land" by means of hunting or fishing.

South Africa

In South Africa, the term has specific connotations of rural areas which are not open veld. Generally it refers to areas in the north of the country that would be called savanna. "Going to The Bush" often refers to going to a game park or game reserve. Areas most commonly referred to as The Bush are the Mpumalanga and Limpopo Lowveld, The Limpopo River Valley, northern KwaZulu-Natal or any other similar area of wilderness.

Alaska and Canada

Main article: The Bush (Alaska)

The Bush in Alaska is generally described as any community not "on the road system", making it accessible only by more elaborate transportation. Usage is similar in Canada; it is called la brousse, or colloquially le bois, in Canadian French.

Related terms

The term "to go bush" has several similar meanings all connected with the supposed wildness of the bush. It can mean to revert to a feral nature (or to "go native"), and it can also mean to deliberately leave normal surroundings and live rough, with connotations of cutting off communication with the outside world – often as a means of evading capture or questioning by the police. The term bushwhacker is used in Australia to mean someone who spends his or her time in the bush.

Another related term used in Australia is "Sydney or the bush", which equates with such terms as "Hollywood or bust" to mean staking total success or failure on one high-risk event.[6][7] This usage appears in several Peanuts cartoons, causing Charlie Brown much confusion.[8]

In addition, many Vietnam War Veterans refer to the wilderness, jungle or border areas of the theatre of operations as "the bush", as opposed to towns, cities and military bases.

In New Zealand, "The Bush" is a nickname for the Wairarapa Bush provincial rugby team. The team was formed by an amalgamation of two earlier teams (Wairarapa and Bush), the latter of which represented an area on the boundaries of the Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay which was in former times known as Bush, due to its dense vegetation cover.

To bushwhack has two meanings, one is to cut through heavy brush and other vegetation to pass through tangled country: "We had to do quite a bit of bushwhacking today to clear the new trail." The other meaning is to hide in such areas and then attack unsuspecting passers-by: "We were bushwhacked by the bandits as we passed through their territory and they took all of our money and supplies."

In the United States, the term has a similar meaning, for example in minor league baseball, typically played in smaller cities, and sometimes derisively called "bush league" baseball.

See also


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