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What has happened to Canberra’s booners?

New Yeah 28 November 2008 78

[First filed: November 27, 2008 @ 10:58]

On a recent thread johnboy answered the question “what on earth is a booner” with:


    much like a westie but wearing an iron maiden tshirt and tighter jeans.

    mostly extinct.

As someone who came of age in Canberra during the heyday of the booner—the 80s and 90s—this got me thinking.

During these glorious years Canberra had heaps of booners, just as Sydney had its westies and Melbourne its bogans.  Essentially they are the same thing, just living in different places.  But now we are asked to believe that the Canberra booner is a dying breed.  Indeed, my learned colleagues on the fiercely parochial RiotAct surprisingly insist on calling these good folk ‘bogans’ instead of the geographically specific ‘booners’.

So, what has happened to Canberra’s booners?

I put forward two possible reasons for the booner’s apparent demise:
1.  It is just a matter of terminology – they are still around but everyone now calls them bogans; and
2.  As johnboy suggests, along with watering your lawn, Raiders Lime flavoured milk and the Northbourne Avenue Summernats Super Cruise, booners are naught but another Canberra cultural relic.  We Canberrans were fortunate to have booners back in the day, but that era is long gone and we now have to make do with the generic bogan.

I say no to both of these hypotheses!  The Canberra booner lives!

Sure, he/she might now wear ill-fitting American sports gear and drive some half-sik ute instead of black Levis, an Anthrax t-shirt and brown desert boots, but he/she is still out there – swearing loudly on the bus, scribbling his/her name on playgrounds, smoking durries at the local shops and riding a BMX in the stormwater drains.  That is, being a booner.

Canberra – am I right here?  Does our fair city still have booners and we have simply lost the ability to identify them as such?

Or if booners are a fading memory from this town’s halcyon pre-self government days, did any of you ever identify as a booner or do you have a claim to booner heritage?


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78 Responses to What has happened to Canberra’s booners?
farnarkler farnarkler 8:58 pm 30 Aug 10

Sorry Drifter but gooner is already in use; Arsenal football fans.

Drifter Drifter 7:04 pm 30 Aug 10

I think I too must cast my plural as well, being: A Gooner of Booners.

FBMKid94 FBMKid94 12:17 am 14 Jan 10

there is a new era of booners not as many as the 80’s and 90’s but there still are some

farnarkler farnarkler 8:06 am 04 Dec 08

Well not on a week night. Interestingly an old school pal of mine is a drummer in ‘Alchemist’ a heavy metal band which has been around for the past decade. Good to see metal isn’t completely dead.

AngryHenry AngryHenry 10:35 am 01 Dec 08

farnarkler said :

As to what happened to us? We grew up and now have mortgages and 2.5 children. We still like getting the old CDs (we had tapes in the good old days) out and cranking it (this one goes to 11).


farnarkler farnarkler 10:08 am 29 Nov 08

As to what happened to us? We grew up and now have mortgages and 2.5 children. We still like getting the old CDs (we had tapes in the good old days) out and cranking it (this one goes to 11).

farnarkler farnarkler 10:05 am 29 Nov 08

I don’t recall the term booners being used that much around Canberra in the 80’s. I lived in Belco, went to school in Dickson (yes, Dara) and was a regular at the woden ice rink on Friday nights so I knew people from all areas. We had the full on headbangers with the obligatory denim jacket with backpatch and then we had the ones who were into George Thorogood and would only drink JD. I guess they must’ve been the booners then.

Ahh the memories of pot black on a friday night. Hang out at the mall, then up to pot black, then a sprint down to the interchange to get the 9:18 400 bus. Fun days.

Granny Granny 3:43 pm 28 Nov 08

We called them rockapes at the Big G or was that something different?

imarty imarty 3:22 pm 28 Nov 08

Wow, I’ve discovered a pocket of surviors at my local ‘european’ club on the southside. We actually have three drinkers there with pretty distinctive mullets. One even has a goatee and wears small footy shorts. Legends!

crabb crabb 2:40 pm 28 Nov 08

Just dug out this email forward from 6 years ago.

“Save the Booner” (maximumus tightblackjeanus withmulletus)

First identified as a sub-species during the mid-70s, the Booner is thought to be a close relation of the Bogan (found in Melbourne’s Western suburbs) and the Westie (spread throughout Western Sydney). It is believed the initial Canberra population was introduced to purpose-built habitats such as Charnwood and Weston Creek. However, by the mid-80s, the species had multiplied to plague proportions, spreading through much of Tuggeranong and outer-Belconnen.

While authorities considered a culling program, they need not have bothered, as the regional population began a rapid decline from the early ’90s onwards. The situation has now reached a critical point, with Booners rarely sighted in Central Canberra, and those remaining clinging to the region’s outskirts. In the year 2002, the species is now officially endangered.

Identifying a Booner is not difficult. Males sport a distinctive hair growth called a “mullet” (short front and sides, long at back). Some scientists believe the growth is genetic, while others argue it is a product of nurture, as even extremely young males seem coerced by parents to adopt the growth. Other distinguishing male characteristics include a tight black denim covering on the hindlimbs and bright flannelette markings on the forepaws and belly. Males adopt a dominant status within the community, with a vague sense of rank defined by the ownership of aging Ford and Holden motor vehicles.

Female Booners are entrusted with the raising of multiple offspring, a role they perform from a young age and often without the presence of the male. They may be similarly identified through distinctive denim markings, though the color is usually “stonewash”. In warmer weather, females have been known to shed the lower layer of demin to just below the genital area, resulting in a “cut-off” effect. Both males and females have been known to cover their lower hind-limbs with furry pouches called “ugh-boots.”

While the wild population of Booners is dwindling, it is still possible to view them in their natural environment. The species has been known to congregate around regional “shopping malls”, where family units often come to settle domestic issues using high-pitched wailing sounds. After sunset, younger males and females meet in small dark enclaves known as “Taverns” where they consume large amounts of a liquid called “Bourbon.”

There are numerous factors attributed to the decline of the local Booner population. Scientists have identified the unpopularity of stadium rock as a contributing cause, while the development of adequate social infrastructure (ie. schools, medium density housing) may have fragmented the species. More controversial theories suggest many booners may have removed their mullets, purchased “cargo pants” and attempted to integrate themselves in Canberra’s mainstream population, but these claims are yet to be substantiated.

At present there seems little hope of restoring the Booner population to its previous levels. Recent attempts included the development of a new artificial habitat named “Gungahlin”, but is seems this area may be too close to Central Canberra to attract large numbers of the species.

More successful is an enclosed breeding program called “Summernats”, which takes place annually at the National Exhibition complex in Watson. The program has proven highly effective, combining motor vehicles and bourbon with rampant displays of female sexuality. Authorities recently introduced a V8 Supercar race with similar results, and have attracted Booner elders AC/DC for a brief visit early next year.

darth_baul darth_baul 9:33 am 28 Nov 08

Yes yes yes Growling Ferret

And if my memory serves me correctly, there used to be a permanent cloud of smoke over the “landscape” down near the tennis courts, until they took it away!

And the very thoughtful catchcry:

… Sex, drugs and rock n roll,
Weston Creeks a f**kin hole …

PBO PBO 8:48 am 28 Nov 08

I would have to cast my plural:

A Torana of booners

Growling Ferret Growling Ferret 8:18 am 28 Nov 08

Whats the old joke about the difference between a booners summer outfit and winter outfit? In summer, the flanny is tied around teh waist. That was around long before Chris Franklin…

Being a good Weston Creek lad, booners were the the tight black jeans, the desert boots (aka pussie boots), the Megadeth t-shirt and the Winnie Blues.

They owned ‘Off-Line’ with Rob Horsfield (H) at Weston Creek High, and the only time they seemed to be in any sort of scuffle was when a ‘leb’ (and we had a couple of them), needed their ass kicked. Fights occurred in the park at Stirling across Namatjira Drive… Those were the days!

Aeek Aeek 8:17 pm 27 Nov 08

I defy classification. Flannies are a practical warm outer layer. If that’s over lycra, so be it.

Disposable Disposable 7:46 pm 27 Nov 08

I-filed – I am Charny born and bred.

GottaLoveCanberra GottaLoveCanberra 7:44 pm 27 Nov 08

I would just like to clarify that not all of us metalheads are booners/bogans.

Thank you. ^_^

Felix the Cat Felix the Cat 7:27 pm 27 Nov 08

I used to be a Booner, also playing “pinnies” at Pot Black in the late eighties/early nineties. I guess as time went on I eventually grew out of it.

I think Bogans are a slightly different breed to Booners. Booners were for the most part harmless but Bogans seem to be more violent. Maybe this is just a reflection of society in general today though.

I-filed I-filed 7:17 pm 27 Nov 08

Disposable, desert boots, denim and a mullet must be a local variant. It was desert boots and californians (black or bone) in inner Canberra. The socio-economic distinctions were in the jeans label. Amco if you were poor, Levis were acceptable, and Lee jeans were quite seriously a status symbol! Don’t anyone think ‘label status’ is a recent phenomenon!
Black californians were the very beginnings of goth and emo.

MWF MWF 7:01 pm 27 Nov 08

miz said :

There used to be an online dictionary of Canberra-isms, eg booner, but also govie, ‘the Hill’, ‘pov shovel’ (bus), bugs bunny (the American memorial), Belco/Tuggers abbreviations etc. Does any one know the URL? I can’t find it.

I’d be interested also. Not being brought up in Canberra, I am totally ignorant of the “booner” term. Where did it come from, the etiology (sp?) of the word? Growing up in Sydney and Regional NSW (not QBN) all I knew was westie. Booner seems to be a typically Canberra term, AFAIK.

miz miz 6:50 pm 27 Nov 08

There used to be an online dictionary of Canberra-isms, eg booner, but also govie, ‘the Hill’, ‘pov shovel’ (bus), bugs bunny (the American memorial), Belco/Tuggers abbreviations etc. Does any one know the URL? I can’t find it.

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