This essay has traced a fleeting trajectory of representations of Aborigines and automobiles in the past 100 years. From the 'smoking buggy' scenes of pandemonium, to the nonchalant magical skills of the Bush Mechanics, a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of images reflects the contemporary state of relations between white Australians and Aboriginal Australians. Today, non-Aboriginal Australians seem less anxious for reassurance that the Indigenous owners of the land are suitably awed by 'our' modern technology, while the grudging inclusiveness extended to Namatjira as a fellow carowner during the height of the assimilation era has been replaced by a genuine acceptance of the fact that indeed, Aboriginal people have made cars their own. Yet even in this 'postmodern' age, embedded in the counter-representations remains the frisson evoked in the white onlooker at seeing the 'unexpected' juxtaposition of two such deeply powerful symbols of the primitive and the modern. This 'annoying irony', as Deloria put it, that even in the most assertive counter-stories of peoples' active engagement with technology, the actors appear as 'funny curiosities' and thus affirm ideologies of race,is an indication that indeed, there is still a long road to travel.
Off the Beaten Track: A Journey Across the Nation p. 72-89