Australian sayings and catchphrases

This site covers the following topics sayings, quotations, poetry, literature, Australia, New South Wales.

This is an growing collection of Australianisms. Many of these are thrown around and wrongly attributed. My aim here is to get the context and the source right: I welcome suggestions for additions, and I relish documented corrections.

Quotes which are completed

All the way with LBJ
Former Australian Prime Minister Harold Edward Holt, speech at White House 29/6/66, just after the announcement of the first US bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong.

Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.
Robert James Lee Hawke, September 26, 1983, after the historic victory of the yacht Australia II in the 1983 America's Cup.

By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;
It lives in the mountain, where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges;
Through brakes of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers.
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.

Henry Kendall, 'Bellbirds', Leaves from Australian Forests, 1869.

Cop this, young Harry!
Roy Rene, playing Mo McCackie, catchcry over many years.

Don't you worry about that
Former Queensland Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, a repeated catchcry. 1970s and 1980s

Hello possums!
Barry Humphreys, catchcry used in his Dame Edna Everage persona.

I did but see her passing by and yet I love her till I die
Robert Gordon Menzies, quoting Elizabethan poet Barnabe Googe and referring to Queen Elizabeth II, Canberra, 18 February, 1963.

Men and women of Australia, we are at war with Japan. That has happened because in the first instance, Japanese naval and air forces launched an unprovoked attack on British and United States territory.
Prime Minister John Curtin, radio broadcast, 8 December 1941

Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that as a result, Australia is also at war.
Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies, Australian radio stations, September 3, 1939.

My little country and your great country will be together through thick and thin.
Robert Gordon Menzies, address to America-Australia Association, New York, 29/6/64

Run over the bastards.
Former N.S.W. premier, friend and beneficiary of criminals, Robin Askin, October 1966. (Said to his driver when demonstrators were blocking his car)

Strike a light!
Roy Rene, playing Mo McCackie, catchcry over many years. 1930s?

There wasn't time to go and tell people, I just yelled out 'has anyone got a torch? A dingo's got my baby.'
Lindy Chamberlain, 18 August 1980

This is a good place for a village
John Batman, founder of Melbourne, attributed, often quoted by residents of Sydney, 1837

True patriots all, for be it understood:
We left our native country, for our native country's good.

George Barrington (c. 1755 - 1804), Prologue written for the Opening of the Play-house at New South Wales, Jan. 16, 1796. Sometimes the word 'native' is omitted, as in the following:

From distant climes, o'er wide-spread seas we come,
Though not with much eclat or beat of drum;
True patriots all; for be it understood
We left our country for our country's good.
No private views disgraced our generous zeal,
What urged our travels was our country's weal.

Two Wongs don't make a White.
Arthur Augustus Calwell, Minister for Immigration, 2 December 1947, responding to an interjection from Sir Thomas White while answering a question about the deportation of a Mr. Wong.

We have a great objective - the light on the hill - which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.
Ben Chifley, Labor Prime Minister, addressing the NSW ALP conference, 12 June 1949.

We set ourselves this first goal: by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.
Robert James Lee Hawke, launching the ALP's election policy, 23 June 1987.

We'll keep the bastards honest.
Donald Leslie Chipp ( - 2006) (Founder of the Australian Democrats Party), usually attributed to May 9, 1977, Melbourne, but actually earlier.

Well may we say: 'God save the Queen', for nothing will save the Governor General
Sacked Australian Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam, November 11, 1975.

I try to use the Australian idiom to its maximum advantage.
Paul Keating, Federal Treasurer of Australia, Wall Street Journal 14 November 1986.

Never ever. Itís dead. It was killed by the voters in the last election.
John Howard, Australian leader of the Opposition, interview, Tweed Heads Civic Centre, 2 May 1995, concerning the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax. He introduced the tax in 1998.

Workspace: Items to be completed

The recession we had to have.
Paul Keating (1944 - ), Federal Treasurer,

That was not a core promise.
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, justifying his failure to keep a promise made during an election campaign.

Kerr's cur Edward Gough Whitlam,

Life wasn't meant to be easy
John Malcolm Fraser, quoting George Bernard Shaw:

Men and women of Australia!
Edward Gough Whitlam, ALP campaign speech, 1972

Paul Keating

The lucky country
Book title, Donald Horne.

The recession we had to have
Paul John Keating, Treasurer of Australia,

Why are people so unkind?
Kamahl (Sri-Lankan origin Australian singer)

Such is life
Ned Kelly, attributed last words.

Other links what words are used where in Oz?

This file is, first created on September 29, 2006. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on March 4, 2007.

© The author of this work is Peter Macinnis. You are free to point at this page. Copies of this page or set of pages may be stored on PDAs or printed for personal use. You can't contact me at, but if you add my first name to the front of that email address, you can -- this is a low-tech way of making it harder to harvest the e-mail address I actually read.
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