The swag is part of Australia’s iconography. A swagman or swaggie was a person who packed up their belongings, rolled up their bedroll and hit the road usually looking for work. The concept entered Australian culture in the late 19th Century and continued into the 20th century especially during the Great Depression.
Not many of us aspire to the life, but all Australians identify with the swaggie in our favourite song, Waltzing Matilda, the lyrics of which were written as a poem by Banjo Paterson.
The swag made it into my research because Ngaire has to borrow someone else’s car to carry her swag out to a B & S Ball – usually translated as Bachelors and Spinsters, but a load of variations have developed over the years. A B&S is an important get-together for rural and regional young people. Their popularity, and ease of transport, means that city young people also find their way to them.
The reason for the car change for Ngaire was because she drives a tiny car – one of those that people park sideways on the streets of Rome and Naples, and the modern swag just won’t fit into it. (No I’m not promoting the company in the link but they do present images for a wide range of equipment that is called a swag right now.)
The swag can be deployed on the ground or, more likely, where possible, in the tray of a ute or the back of a station wagon. Some of them require a two-person lift! They’re an all-in-one bed and tent and provide easy accommodation.
The “once a jolly swagman”…
would not recognise
the hybrid swags of today.