BOOK REVIEW: Betoota’s Australia by The Betoota Advocate

BOOK REVIEW: Betoota’s Australia by The Betoota Advocate

ABC Books
October 2017
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction / Comedy & Humour


When you’re a kid from a small, country town, the prospect of leaving home and moving to the big smoke can be scary. The guys from The Betoota Advocate know all about this so they’ve written Betoota’s Australia – A Guide to the Great Southern Land by Australia’s Oldest Newspaper (although in truth, it’s actually by the authors of a satirical news website that is similar to The Onion, The Chaser, and The Shovel). This volume promises to be as enlightening as “Microsoft Encarta” although it is far funnier. This means we can all have a giggle together, because no group of individuals or region in this country escapes skewering – these blokes lampoon one and all from this wonderful land of Oz.

What was initially created as a handbook guide to city manners and social graces, given to Diamantina youth being sent away to boarding school and our young ringers heading to Brisbane for the Royal Show, has now become an award-winning categorised index of life outside our town… Australia’s oldest newspaper, The Betoota Advocate, has worked tirelessly to describe the people, the places, the politics, the cultural rituals, and the language that make up this great land. And, for the centenary celebration of the guide, we have decided to share it with all Australians through a nationwide print run, orchestrated through the News Limited branch of the public broadcaster, ABC Books HarperCollins.

This book is actually the second one to be published by the writers of The Betoota Advocate, Clancy Overell and Errol Parker, which are really the pen names of former journalists, Archer Hamilton and Charles Single. The Betoota’s previous offering was a collection of their fake news stories printed together like a Chaser Annual. It is funny to think that a couple of Betoota’s fake news articles were picked up by Australia’s mainstream press and reported as fact. The Betoota “newspaper” is named after a real town in North Queensland that has a population of zero. In this current volume, the boys set their sights on different facets of Australian life, from the different parts of Australia (inland, coastal and cities), to different ethnic groups (who all seem united in their mutual dislike of coppers), to our politics, food, and sports.

The Jet-Ski Owner (JSO) is a term given to the Australian nouveau riche, or ‘new money’, which makes up one of Australia’s largest suburban demographics.
With young families as well as boats in tow, their name comes from this subculture’s love of impulse purchases and alcohol-fuelled water sports… The JSO’s main issue with contemporary Australian politics is the fact that no one is addressing the real issues, like the ever-increasing cost of living for middle-class Australians who own two four-wheel drives, a jet ski and a giant rendered-brick house in the suburbs. They put this detachment down to politicians being too focused on minorities and the environment, as well as lining their own pockets.

This guide is a cheeky one and proudly politically incorrect at every turn. The writing isn’t for the faint-hearted or the easily offended. The group are disparaging of one and all, even their own town. The guide for each region includes lots of handsome colour photographs as well as a list of noteworthy “celebrities” from each place (David Hicks for instance, is listed as a former Australian ambassador to Cuba while Julian Assange is responsible for “WikiLeaks and “WWIII”) and landmarks like: Rooty Hill RSL for Sydney and correctional centres in Lithgow, Bathurst, Moree, and Goulburn are highlights from the NSW bush.

Canberra can offer you something other cities simply cannot. As a glorified country town, its sense of community isn’t too far removed from other parts of regional Australia. Just last year, the international airport terminal opened, offering direct flights to Singapore and Wellington… only a year after Emirates began offering direct flights from Remienko International Airport in South Betoota to Kabul. Canberra is a town on the move.
The skinny of this is: visiting the capital is something you should do at least once, but be careful and stay close to the lake. Make sure not to carry large amounts of cash and try to keep your valuables hidden in public. Canberra is a dog-eat-dog town.

In Betoota’s Australia the writers often blur the lines between fact and fiction. For instance, you can read some pillorying of Sydney’s real-life lock-out laws alongside clear untruths like the assertion that musician, Daniel Johns is related to the Newcastle Knights players, Andrew and Matty Johns. This book is ultimately well-written and fun, and is a swift and easy read that is equally sharp, fun, absurd, and uncomfortable (comedy is so subjective and it’s unsurprising that some of the jokes fail to hit the mark). This volume sees Australia’s larrikin humour at its rawest, silliest and naughtiest. It lets it all hang out, warts and all and it will certainly leave some readers feeling proud to come from that land down under!

BOOK REVIEW: Betoota's Australia by The Betoota Advocate

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