One of Australia’s most recognised and loved statues has been damaged.
A man has been charged for allegedly vandalising* the iconic Dog on the Tuckerbox statue at Gundagai.
About 4pm on Saturday, July 27, a motorist travelling along the side of the Hume Highway, Gundagai, noticed a man vandalising the statue.
The statue commemorates Australia’s pioneer history and was inspired by the bullock drivers’ poem Bullocky Bill, which celebrates the life of a mythical driver’s dog that loyally guarded the man’s tuckerbox until death.
A community Facebook page described the vandalism as a “malicious deed” and said the dog’s ear had been found by a local kiosk worker.
A 28-year-old Wagga Wagga man handed himself in to police on Monday morning and has been charged with one count of property damage. He will appear at Wagga Wagga Local Court on September 11.
The statue, visited by thousands of tourists every year, was rocked from its base and knocked into the fountain below.
It was damaged during the fall, the dog losing one of its ears.
Outraged locals took to the Lost Gundagai Facebook page to vent* their sadness and fury after the statue was damaged.
“The Dog on the Tuckerbox is so iconic* that we feel as though an assault has been committed on an innocent animal and not a statue,” Leslie Allen posted.
“He represents everything that is our culture, history and legacy*. Poor little thing.”
DOG ON THE TUCKERBOX
The Dog on the Tuckerbox is a small statue inspired by a famous Australian poem called “Bullocky Bill” that celebrates the life of a mythical* bullock driver’s dog that loyally guarded his owner’s lunch.
A tuckerbox is an old Australian word for a lunchbox. A bullock is the Australian name for an ox.
The story of the Dog on the Tuckerbox has been around since at least the 1850s, when explorers and pioneers travelled through the area. Supplies were brought from Sydney by wagons pulled by bullocks. There were no proper roads and the journeys were often delayed because rivers and creeks were too difficult to cross or the wagons became bogged.
If the drivers — called bullockies — had to leave their wagons to get help, their dog would sit patiently and guard the wagon and supplies until they returned.
To pass the time while waiting for water levels at a river to go down or for help to arrive, the bullockies would recite and write stories, poems and songs.
Someone who called themselves Bowyang Yorke and who was probably a bullocky wrote the humorous poem “Bullocky Bill”, about the misfortunes that happened to bullockies. No one really knows who Bowyang Yorke was.
The story of the Dog on the Tuckerbox was made more famous by Jack O’Hagan in a 1937 song called “Where the Dog Sits on the Tuckerbox”.
There was an earlier dog statue nearby, nine miles — about 14km — from Gundagai. The poem refers to a spot nine miles from Gundagai.
The current statue was unveiled in 1932 by then Prime Minister Joseph Lyons as a tribute to pioneers.
It is by the side of the Hume Hwy at Snake Gully, 7km outside Gundagai, which locals at the time decided was a better location to attract visitors.
- vandalising: deliberately destroying something
- vent: let out emotions
- iconic: describing an icon, a symbol of something broader
- legacy: what is left behind to remember something by
- mythical: happening in a myth or folk story
- What state is Gundagai in?
- What do you put in a tuckerbox?
- What do we know about Bowyang Yorke from the story?
- Who was prime minister in 1932?
- What major road goes right past the statue?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Famous Australian landmarks
Name and describe another famous Australian landmark or statue in as much detail as possible. Have you visited this? Why do you find it interesting?
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Civics and Citizenship
Design and make a brochure telling people about either the Dog on the Tuckerbox or the other famous Australian landmark you have described in the first activity. Include all you know about either the dog statue or the landmark you have chosen. Include at least one pointer for how visitors to the landmark should behave while there to ensure it is not damaged and why it is important to look after the landmark.
Time: allow at least 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, The Arts – Visual Arts, Civics and Citizenship
An icon damaged and hearts broken!
While to some people it is only a statue, to the town of Gundagai and many Australians, it is a very famous and treasured landmark. But it doesn’t have to be a landmark vandalised to cause hurt, it could be much smaller and much closer to home.
Imagine some of the items or places in your world that are important to you: your school, your classroom, your house, pets, personal items, maybe a trophy or a special toy.
Now imagine someone damaged it on purpose. They didn’t necessarily do it to hurt you, they more did it because they were showing off to others, or thought it would be funny, or they were bored and they thought it would be entertaining. In general, they don’t have a good excuse to vandalise property, and they very rarely think about other people’s feelings.
How would you feel if something important to you was damaged? Maybe you didn’t think it was that important until it was damaged.
Discuss your thoughts and opinions in a group of 3 to clarify your ideas, then write a letter to the vandals explaining how you would feel if this happened to you.
Or write to the community of Gundagai expressing your sympathies.
Remember to use your writer’s voice and to edit and uplevel when you have finished.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Have you or would you like to see the Dog on the Tuckerbox? What is the best statue you have seen?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.