Ghosting in the outback Noir

Greg Dolgopolov


Who was the ‘jolly swagman’ in Waltzing Matilda, Australia’s unofficial national anthem? In this essay I argue that the ghost of the swagman can be heard in a number of recent de-colonising crime narratives. Outback Noir is a relatively recent genre category that describes a new wave of Australian crime films that highlight Indigenous and white relations and take a revisionist approach to traditional history. These films often feature redemption stories that highlight effective collaborations between Indigenous and white policing practices. Uncovering a rural communities’ dark, repressed secrets in order to solve a current problem is a common trend in Outback Noir cinema. I examine Patrick Hughes’ 2010 film Red Hill as an early provocative example of Outback Noir and as modern reimaging of the Waltzing Matilda narrative with the swagman’s avenging ghost exposing the social fractures and corruption that are destroying rural communities. I argue that the Outback Noir genre with its focus on revenge-redemption narratives shapes the cultural dialogue around putting the ghosts of the colonial past to rest.


Outback Noir; Neo-Westerns; Waltzing Matilda; Red Hill; Mystery Road; Goldstone

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