We know quite a lot about the way our pioneers forged their way into the bush, and how they lived, but it is through the old poems we find much of the emotional history that allows us to enter their world. Early settlers, including convict ticket-of-leave men and free settlers, certainly referred to the Australian countryside as ‘the bush’. The fact that most of these people came from Britain and Ireland, both comparatively small territories, might have contributed to their desire to invent a suitable word to describe where they now lived. ‘Forest’ and ‘wood’ were far too restrictive for such a diverse and perverse environment. The word ‘bush’ quickly became a generalised word to describe anywhere outside the Sydney settlement. Many of the early poems refer to ‘the bush’ with a certain reverence as if an impenetrable natural wall.
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