Last year I wrote an article in The Age about people building things from used materials. Here’s an extract that provides a good description of who a bush mechanic might be.
Paul Wildman has spent years studying and working with bush mechanics – people he calls “our greatest national secret and treasure”. He says bush mechanics are fixers and tinkerers, people with practical skills that “provide joined up solutions in complex situations”. That might mean machinery. It can also mean things like keeping chooks, building a bench or sewing a dress.
The tradition comes from both indigenous cultures and from European settlers who had to solve their problems with whatever was available. It’s a knack that’s still important today. “Bushies are into reuse, repair and refocus,” he says.
Dr Wildman laments that this “hand knowledge” is disappearing, thanks to our apparent material plenty and too much focus on the academic side of education. Aside from losing depression-era skills, he says we’re also missing out on a way of learning that combines doing and thinking. “Einstein was a bush mechanic. There are half a dozen Nobel Prize winners who were hobby scientists.”
“The best thing is for people to do something tonight with their hands,” Dr Wildman says. “It might be cooking a meal, planting a window pot, or fixing something with wire. But actually start bringing those practical things into their lives and celebrating it.”
Just as important, he argues, is sharing your newfound knowledge with family and friends, and encouraging kids to pursue hands-on learning. It’s all a crucial part of the bigger picture. “Reusing and repairing also links into saving the world and (dealing with) the global economic problems.”