During the course of Australia's history, many historians, writers, poets and others have attempted to put their finger on and establish an authentic or 'real' Australian identity for the relatively young population. One of the important and prolific images or legends is the Bush legend. The bush legend has been a theme of great debate over the years and two historians who have participated in this debate are Russel Ward in his 'Australian Legend' written in 1958 and re-printed in 1982, and Graeme Davison's 'Sydney and the Bush: An Urban Context for the Australian Legend', written in 1978 and re-printed in 1982. This essay will outline Ward and Davison's arguments as to the origins of the bush legend and also compare and contrast the two arguments.
In Ward's analysis of the bush legend, he states that the bush myth grew out of the material experience of 'labour and leisure' in the bush.
Ward states that the first and most significant bush workers were the convicts and ex-convicts as their lives and previous lives spent 'doing time' harboured similar attitudes to those found amid bush workers. Partly due to this convict beginning of the bush workers, the social class was definitely lower class. The bush legend according to Ward describes an itinerant rural proletariat and a pastoral proletariat and therefore the cultural influences were 'upwards from the lowest strata of society and outwards from the interior' (p. 189). According to Ward's argument, the features and characteristics of the bush legend were already present in 1851, unlike Davison's view of the bush legend's origins of the 1880's. Ward's bush legend was also predominantly masculine as women were scarce in the outback and invisible in the bush legend.
Ward's main point was that the economic, geographical and climatic conditions of the outback brought...