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This Day in History

Australian History

Saturday, May 16, 1891. :   Henry Lawson's iconic poem, "Freedom On the Wallaby", is published for the first time.

     The phrase "on the wallaby track" is an Australian term which has come to epitomise the freedom of being "on the road" with no ties and no specific, predetermined destination in mind. However, its meaning was originally somewhat different.

The term comes from a poem written by Henry Lawson in 1891 in response to the government's use of soldiers to end the Australian Shearers' Strike which occurred in Queensland earlier that year. Entitled "Freedom on the Wallaby", the poem was first published by William Lane on 16 May 1891 in the Brisbane newspaper 'The Worker'.

When "Freedom on the Wallaby" was read out in the Queensland Legislative Council two months later, there were calls for Lawson to be charged with sedition. Not only did the poem mentioned lines such as "fly a rebel flag" and "sing a rebel song", it was a clear statement against the use of force to overthrow the shearers' protests.

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