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How to depict Australian characters


In my working novel, a character encounters an Aussie. Having nigh-zero knowledge of how to make dialogues in an Australian accent, I just opted to describe that he talks without any hints of an accent. However, after reading it a few times, I noticed that it would flow better overall if he talks with said accent. I just want some general tips to make the dialogue has more of a stereotypically Australian feel to it. If it helps, here's an excerpt of the book:

. “Nice.” He fist-bumped Wrangler. “Just back from London?” Slurx continued. “Sort of.” Wrangler replied. “This slippery Eel ran all the way to Windsor before I was able to nail him.”

(P.S: Wrangler is the Australian character.)

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3 answers


When Hollywood puts an Aussie character in a movie their "accent" stands out like a sore thumb, I have no idea where they get their accent from but it sounds closer to British than Aussie. It's more that we don't accent sounds.

I would recommend going more for slang and mannerisms that accent, without overdoing them, we don't say mate every sentence. I agree with the suggestion of watching some Aussie tv shows, I think 'Neighbours' and 'Home and Away' are the longest running and targets a younger audience, 'The Project' is a more recent daily light comedy news/general info show probably with an older audience, 'Big Brother Australia' may be one to watch with real Aussies rather than actors. You can find episodes/clips of each on youtube.

From the short example I would think of Crocodile Dundee as a role model, laid back, brush off big things like they happen everyday.

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If you give the work a "stereotypically Australian feel" then you are creating caricatures not characters.

When you are deciding how Wrangler(sic) will speak, you need to consider his level of education, his occupation and the people with whom he associates. These factors will all be more relevant than where he happens to have been born.

You may be surprised to learn that not everyone here talks like Barry Bloody Mackenzie

Strewth, is that the emus kicking down the flamin' dunny again. A man'd better go and put a stop to that before me cheese-and-kisses does her block. Can't stand around here yackin' all day.

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Australia is no different to other countries in that accents can be predicated by the person's origins such as whether they grew up in a city or a rural area. In general, most Aussies tend to shorten/contract words, use informal and colloquial terms, and drop parts of sentences as though implied.

Unfortunately (for some) many TV and movie characters depict Aussies that are stereotypically rural types, with a pronounced drawl. That said, rural Aussies have their own distinctive phrases depending on the region of Australia they come from. Some adopt variations of the rhyming slang that is also used in the UK. Others tend to end sentences as though they are questions by the "eh?" ending. This is common in northern parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

A more typical response for Wrangler might be: "Mate, the bloody eel slipped back to Windsor before I nail'd 'im."

By the way, fist bumping is viewed in Australia as more of an American act, although many Americanisms are adopted by Aussies, particularly younger generations. Back slapping is more Australian.

Edit: The heavier the use of slang, the more likely the person comes from a rural area and/or has limited education (a generalisation).

Here're some slang terms and their meanings used across the country:

  • Ambo : ambulance, ambulance driver.
  • Ankle biter : small child.
  • She'll be apples : It'll be all right.
  • Arvo : afternoon.
  • Back of Bourke : a very long way away.
  • Bastard : term of endearment.
  • Bathers : swimming costume.
  • Battler : someone working hard and only just making a living.
  • Beaut, beauty : great, fantastic.
  • Billy : teapot. Container for boiling water.
  • Bloke : man, guy.
  • Blokey-bloke : macho man.
  • Bloody : very (bloody hard yakka), to add emphasis.
  • Bloody oath! : that's certainly true.
  • Blow in the bag : perform a breathalyser test.
  • Bludger : lazy person, layabout, somebody who always relies on other people to do things or lend him things.
  • Blue : fight ("he was having a blue with his wife").
  • Blue, make a : make a mistake.
  • Youse : You (plural)

More slang can be found here:

As requested, some common contractions include:

th'sarvo meaning this afternoon: "I'll see ya th'sarvo"

g'day meaning 'good day': "G'day, mate"

hows't meaning 'how is it': "Hows't goin'?" (pronounced 'how-zit')

ava meaning 'have a' : "Ava good weekend."

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