4. Homegrown Outback Exploration

Australia has always had a DIY caravaning culture. Christmas holidaytime can often involve getting outside with your tent.

Esplanade at Burleigh, Queensland, Christmas 1932

Group of young men camping at Sandgate over Christmas, 1904

Christmas camp at Bulwer, Moreton Island, 1907

The first caravan park opened in Victoria in 1924.

The Great Depression left many Australians out of work and somewhat itinerant. The Victorian and New South Wales governments funded the construction of tourist roads as a jobs program for people needing work. These got used in earnest once the prosperity of the post-war era and two weeks of paid annual leave became more commonplace in a movement that Caravan World calls the Great Holiday Boom.

Streamlined mobile home in a Brisbane suburban street, 1948

The State Library of Queensland has assembled photographs of caravans from many eras from the homemade to the high style.

Early caravan design mounted on a Buick chassis, Pialba, 1926

Mobile home belonging to Romeo Lahey, early Queensland nature conservationist, ca. 1908

Caravan made from a converted aircraft, Kalinga, Queensland

Looking closely at Australian camping and caravan culture can be one lens through which Australian culture can be understood and appreciated.

“…themes like freedom, mobility, escape, utopia; images of domesticity on wheels, décor and design, materials, technology, DIY production and Fordism; caravan parks as homes and as itinerant and long-term accommodation. These themes and images are also necessarily interwoven with class, gender, sex and age. We are interested in the possibilities of using the caravan as a carrier for making sense of postwar Australia.”

Mrs Dudley Courtman in her Chesney caravan, 1952