Though it sits on the southeast coastline, straight across from Tasmania, Melbourne feels more like the interior of Australia. Indeed, the first south-to-north crossing through the middle of the continent set off from Melbourne in 1860. See the movie Burke and Wills (1986). Telegraph wires and train tracks would follow. Even today, Melbourne has more of the feel of a frontier town. Key to this image is the legendary Melbourne Gaol, where the storied outlaw Ned Kelly was hung by the neck in 1888. There are two movies celebrating the legend, one starring Mick Jagger (1970) and the other featuring Heath Ledger (2004). The Wild West quality of Australia, paralleling the American mythos, can also be seen in one of Tom Selleck’s more interesting movies, Quigley Down Under (1990).
Travelers who move in the settled areas between the coastal cities, on the outskirts of the Outback, quickly become aware of large farms dedicated to the herding of sheep. Once, these green lands were the domains of the native peoples who came here first. Now there are fine ranch houses and acres of fenced-in pasture. Except for weather extremes and fires, it is a genteel life and an index of Australia’s good fortune. The movie that captures the best view of this world is The Sundowners (1960). See also We of the Never Never (1982) for a cattle farm. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman can be seen herding cattle in the faltered national epic, Australia (2008).
For an altogether different take on the transitional world between pioneer hardship and modern convenience, see the ruminative and somewhat surreal film, Oscar and Lucinda (1997), featuring Ralph (say Rafe) Fiennes and Cate Blanchett. All of the actors mentioned on this page except for the British Jagger and Fiennes, are members of Australia’s pantheon of world-class movie stars.