Outdoor magazines have played an important role in Australia as sources of knowledge about outdoor leisure activities. They have helped shape how the Australian bush is imagined and used, been an important tool in the commercialisation of the outdoors and, towards the end of the 20th century, acted as a mouthpiece for the protection of the interests of wilderness.
Among the first outdoor magazines published in Australia was the Hiker: and Hiking, a Melbourne-based publication issued in October 1932. Its arrival coincided with a boom in the popularity of bushwalking and hiking as weekend pastimes for urban dwellers. Drawing on a long-standing discourse of nature as a tonic for the ills of urban living, the Hiker aimed to promote ‘walking, hiking and camping as clean, health-giving recreations’. Despite its title, the magazine also catered for a broad range of outdoor pursuits, including angling, boating, cycling, horse-riding, photography, rock-climbing and skiing. The publication was designed so it could be ‘slipped into the pocket or rucksack’, providing information about routes and interesting articles to read while travelling. After just three issues, the Hiker quietly folded.
In the 1930s, bushwalking clubs including the Sydney Bushwalkers and the Coast and Mountain Walkers began to publish their own magazines, the monthly Sydney Bushwalker (1931– ) and Into the Blue (1935– ). Most club magazines were amateur, in-house publications that focused on club activities, including walk reports and notices of future trips. Editors frequently struggled to fill the pages. In contrast, both the Melbourne Amateur Walking and Touring Club (MAWTC), one of Melbourne’s first walking clubs, and the Hobart Walking Club opted for more substantial, professional, outward-looking publications, funded by advertising revenue. The Melbourne Walker (1929–91) and the Tasmanian Tramp (1933– ), both annual publications, sought readers further afield. Both magazines included histories and geographies of significant locations in their respective states. From the 1940s, the MAWTC explicitly aimed to bypass material about walks that might not interest nonmembers. The subtitle of the Melbourne Walker was ‘Victoria’s Geographical Magazine’. As conservation emerged as a popular issue in the 1970s, both magazines also began to promote an environmental ethos. A wide range of other significant bushwalking club magazines emerged after the war, including Skyline (Launceston Walking Club, 1952–81), Heybob (University of Queensland Bushwalking Club, 1959–83), and the Brisbane Bushwalker (Brisbane Bush Walkers, 1965– ).
Australia’s first successful commercial outdoor magazine was Outdoors and Fishing, first issued in 1948 and published monthly. It billed itself as the ‘Southern Hemisphere’s Journal of the Great Outdoors’. The policy of the journal was to ‘encourage and foster an appreciation of our great outdoors’. The magazine’s focus was fishing, hunting and bushcraft, and it occasionally published material on Aboriginal culture. While it stated that it stood for the protection of fauna, flora and waterways, this could be difficult to reconcile with its promotion of shooting as a sport. The magazine was acquired by K.G. Murray in 1955; it ceased publication under the Federal Publishing Company in 1983.
From the 1980s, a renewed enthusiasm for outdoor recreation saw the publication of several new magazines, including Rock (1978– ), Backpack (1979–85) and Action Outdoor Australia (1986–88). The most important and successful was Australian Wild (now Wild), first published in 1981 as a quarterly. The magazine was founded by passionate bushwalker and rock-climber Chris Baxter, and catered for active participants in ‘rucksack sports’. Baxter wanted the magazine to be ‘a celebration of our wild places’. Alongside the glossy wilderness photography, track notes and gear surveys, Wild emerged as a strong voice for the protection of wilderness areas. Wild gave small cash donations and advertising discounts to conservation organisations. The magazine quickly developed a loyal readership; within three years, its print run reached 20,000. Since its inception, Wild has expanded in size, become full colour and, from 2009, has been published bi-monthly. Its commitment to promoting the recreational and environmental value of Australia’s wild places remains.
Australian Geographic was launched by entrepreneur Dick Smith in 1986, billed initially as ‘Dick Smith’s Journal of Adventure and Discovery’. In 1995, it carried the subtitle ‘Journal of the Australian Geographical Society’. In 1995, Mason Stewart Publishing NSW launched Outdoor Australia, which morphed into Australian Geographic Outdoor when it was acquired by Australian Consolidated Press in 2009.
REF: M. Harper, The Ways of the Bushwalker (2007).