Set in Australia near the beginning of the Second World War, a time when much of the country was in fear of an impending Japanese invasion. This fear caused many Northern Territory inhabitants to begin evacuating, in order to escape being taken prisoner, and to burn everything in a 'scorched earth' policy, in order to leave the invading forces without resources. Rather than kill all their cattle, a disparate group decides to drive them overland halfway across the continent.
The Overlanders is a story that emphasises the Australian spirit in a time of great uncertainty. It recreates the hazards of an epic cattle drive and carefully assembles the mannerisms, vocabulary, and attitudes that characterise the Australian bushman. The story also reinforces the resilience and strength of women, particularly through the character of Mary Parsons. In this respect, it carries on the tradition of the bush heroine established in Australian films of the twenties and thirties.