The Australian National Travel Association was established in 1929 to promote Australia as a travel destination. Partly funded by the federal government, its board represented the interests of the railways, shipping and hotels set to benefit from an increase in tourism. To support this promotion, a monthly magazine was established. The first issue of Walkabout appeared in November 1934.
Edited by Charles Holmes for many years, the magazine sought to tell the story of 'the romantic Australia that exists beyond the cities'. The subsequent success of the magazine ensured that the stories and images it published bolstered a romantic idea of Australia in the popular imagination. Walkabout published a variety of genres, including geographical articles, travel stories, historical essays and studies of flora and fauna. The portrayal of Aborigines, while sympathetic, was sometimes patronising and often served to reinforce 'primitive' stereotypes.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Walkabout published many articles by regional writers such as Henrietta Drake Brockman, Mary Durack, Henry G. Lamond and W. E. Harney (qq.v.). Other contributors included Ernestine Hill, H. D. Williamson, Alan Marshall, Eleanor Dark and Rex Ingamells (qq.v.). By the late 1950s, Walkabout began to explore urban areas and cultural topics, following Robin Boyd's 1959 article 'Australia and the Arts'. During the 1960s and early 1970s, many Australian writers, artists and entertainers were featured and contributions were received from established writers such as Gavin Casey, D'Arcy Niland), Oodgeroo, Dal Stivens, Ruth Park and George Johnston (qq.v.). The pseudonymous 'Scrutarius' (q.v.) contributed more than one hundred book reviews between 1953 and 1971, commenting on novels, poetry, autobiography, biography and cultural history.
Walkabout ceased production in July 1974, following proposed reforms in the new Australian Tourist Commission.
'Walkabout magazine was one of the most influential and innovative Australian magazines across much of the twentieth century and it is long overdue for an extended, appreciative study of its internal and external dynamics. Mitchell Rolls and Anna Johnston provide the significant and innovative study the magazine deserves drawing attention to its complex engagement with the natural environment and the land as resource, with history and heritage, with Aboriginal and Pacific Island cultures.' —David Carter, Fellow at Australian Academy of the Humanities
''Travelling Home' provides a detailed analysis of the contribution that the mid twentieth-century 'Walkabout' magazine made to Australia’s cultural history. Spanning five central decades of the twentieth century (1934-1974), 'Walkabout' was integral to Australia’s sense of itself as a nation. By advocating travel—both vicarious and actual—'Walkabout' encouraged settler Australians to broaden their image of the nation and its place in the Pacific region. In this way, 'Walkabout' explicitly aimed to make its readers feel at home in their country, as well as including a diverse picture of Aboriginal and Pacific cultures. Like National Geographic in the United States, Walkabout presented a cornucopia of images and information that was accessible to a broad readership.
'Given its wide availability and distribution, together with its accessible and entertaining content, 'Walkabout' changed how Australia was perceived, and the magazine is recalled with nostalgic fondness by most if not all of its former readers. Many urban readers learnt about Indigenous peoples and cultures through the many articles on these topics, and although these representations now seem dated and at times discriminatory, they provide a lens through which to see how contemporary attitudes about race and difference were defined and negotiated.
'Drawing on interdisciplinary scholarship, 'Travelling Home' engages with key questions in literary, cultural, and Australian studies about national identity and modernity. The book’s diverse topics demonstrate how 'Walkabout' canvassed subtle and shifting fields of representation. Grounded in the archival history of the magazine’s production, the book addresses questions key to Australian cultural history. These include an investigation of middle-brow print culture and the writers who contributed to Walkabout, and the role of 'Walkabout' in presenting diverse and often conflicting information about Indigenous and other non-white cultures. Other chapters examine how popular natural history enabled scientists and readers alike to define an unique Australian landscape, and to debate how a modernising nation could preserve its bush while advocating industrial and agricultural development. While the nation is central to 'Walkabout' magazine’s imagined world, Australia is always understood to be part of the Pacific region in complex ways that included neo-colonialism, and Pacific content was prominent in the magazine. Through complex and nuanced readings of Australian literary and cultural history, 'Travelling Home' reveals how vernacular understandings of key issues in Australia’s cultural history were developed and debated in this accessible and entertaining magazine.' (Publication summary)
'The "story of a journey ... a picture of the country ... a record ...,": Henrietta Drake-Brockman saw herself giving fellow Australians through her contributions to Walkabout magazine during the twentieth century. Along with Drake-Brockman several other well-known Australian female authors made regular contributions to Walkabout; including Ernestine Hill, Mary Durack and Patsy Adam-Smith. They wrote about their firsthand experiences of often remote parts of Australia, describing the landscape, the people who dwelt in it and their achievements for the edification of the largely urban readership of this popular magazine. These women wrote with enthusiasm and curiosity about the country in which they had been born. Still a young nation forming and forging an identity in the face of harsh beginnings and catastrophic world events, Australia in the mid 1900s was no longer a convict or pioneer nation, but what was it? This paper discusses representations of country in the articles of two of the female contributors to Walkabout magazine: Ernestine Hill and Henrietta Drake-Brockman. These writers saw Australia as both "grim and fascinating"; a vast land of opportunity to be "possessed" and made "productive" to the economic advantage of its inhabitants. As such they provide an intriguing insight into the development of the nation, and contributed to processes of inscription during the period of Walkabout's run (1934 - 1974).' (Publication summary)