Publication Details

Clarsen, G. W. (2002). Still moving: bush mechanics in the Central Desert. Australian Humanities Review, (25), 1-12.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Australian Humanities Review


Brake fluid made from washing powder mixed in water? Welding a muffler with jumper leads, fencing wire and a car battery? Replacement brake pads carved from mulga-wood with a tomahawk, or an emergency clutch plate shaped out of an old boomerang? Spare parts filed in collective memory, and scattered in old car wrecks along dirt tracks? Strips of blanket wound into windscreen-wiper blades? Such is the car repair advice offered in Bush Mechanics, the series recently screened on ABC Television.1 Presented with humour and enthusiasm, as well as a large dose of self-parody, this is mechanical advice unlike any other. Nyurulypa ("good tricks") are what the heroes of the series – five bush mechanics from Yuendumu in the Central Desert – call them. They are tricks offered as special knowledge, hard-won in collective experience, and first learned by the old men who tell some of their stories in the series. They suggest a particularly localised knowledge, presented as something that everyone should know, and all who love mutikars will enjoy.