Jean Madden in a Street Swag

Review of Jean Madden's 'Street Swag'

by former Stockman David Mapstone

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The following is a story by a former stockman who has slept in a traditional Australian swag at the Million Star Hotel for many years. It includes his review of the Street Swag:Street Swags Jean Madden with Princess Mary

"Since 2002, a great Australian outback fishing competition has been held at the Oma waterhole on the Barcoo River at the town of Isisford just South of Longreach in Western Queensland. 

Having lived down river in the Yaraka district not far from Isisford in my youth, for some years in the 1960’s, my old friend from those days, Ronnie Walton, invited me to enter with him in the 2008 Isisford Fishing Competition.

Ronnie and I had worked on sheep and cattle grazing properties back in the sixties and being friends ever since, liked to catch up every year, and in 2008, were looking forward to visiting the outback once again.  Back in the sixties we lived out of our swags for most of the year doing stock work. 

Back then, stock work was predominantly on horseback with short wheel based Land Rovers used to carry tinned food, cooking utensils and swags etc, from camp to camp.  Mustering, drafting and branding would see us away from the Station Homestead for months on end and camping out in the open in swags those nights reminds me of the sky filled with a kaleidoscope of stars to wonder about before falling asleep.

It was with great excitement therefore that, with the prospect of a trip to compete in the Isisford 2008 Fishing Comp, I could look forward to camping beside the Barcoo River as I had on many occasions before.  I had a small problem however.  Ronnie had worked in the outback most of his life and had a traditional stockman’s swag he carried in his falcon Ute. 

As we would be camping out under the stars (Ronnie and I would not dream of having a tent) to recapture some of the memories of our youth, I needed a swag, but at age 62, I decided I couldn’t justify the expense of swags available to the modern day stockman. 

I had read about the young woman, Jean Madden, who had developed swags for homeless people that were light and very versatile, so I decided look her up and see if these “Street Swags” as they were called would be something I could use during my out back trip.

Jean Madden rolling a Street Swag

I was pleased when Jeanie said she would be happy to lend me a street swag for the trip, if I would give her some feedback on my return.  The Street Swag is much smaller and lighter than conventional swags I’m used to, is also waterproof and can double as storage for small amount of clothing etc. 

Homeless person Tony Tarasinko demonstrated the Street SwagThe conventional Stockman’s swag travels in the back of a Ute or 4x4 and sometimes on the back of a horse, however, the Street Swag folds up into a bag that can be used to carry more than just bedding as previously mentioned. 

I was quite intrigued, needless to say as I rolled out my Street Swag at a number of water holes on the Thompson and Barcoo Rivers during the trip in 2008.  The one waterhole we did not camp at was the Oma waterhole at Isisford.  Would you believe, the 2008 Isisford Fishing Competition was cancelled due to rain?  This I learnt as I stepped off the plane in Longreach in July 2008. 

Ronnie greeted me with the words that the comp had been cancelled.  Even the best 4x4’s do not get far in the muddy black soil after rain.  Not to worry though, unlike the current 2010/11 record rains in all of Queensland, back in 2008, rain in one district usually meant dry in others.

So after my first night sleeping in the Street Swag on the veranda of Ronnie’s sister-in-law’s home in Longreach, we headed for Winton the next day, Saturday for the Outback, Queensland / NSW Rugby League Annual Finals. 

We had a great day out with Ronnie’s nephew playing in the under 10’s finals.  Boys and girls play Rugby League in all outback junior teams and selected adult teams.  The grand final was all blokes though and I honestly forget who won that year. 

Back to Longreach to overnight and then off down the Thompson River Road to Stonehenge where we met many old acquaintances there and on further to Jundah before going back up the Barcoo River to Yaraka and on to Blackhall. 

I'd like to congradulate Jean
on her Street Swags Design
winning a category of the
Index Design Awards.

We visited some of the properties Ronnie and I had worked on in our youth.  We were disappointed to find only caretakers on Retreat and Budgerygar Stations on the Barcoo but made ourselves known and were permitted to look over our old quarters and other homestead buildings. 

The memories flooded back and we camped at familiar waterholes along the Barcoo.  While the fishing was pretty lean pickings, we didn’t mind at all.  Just being there and enjoying the quiet, the solitude in the pristine surroundings was rejuvenating.

We stayed with friends in Blackhall and again I rolled out my Street Swag on the back lawn for a peaceful nights sleep before driving on further North East to Mackay to stay overnight with Ronnie’s daughter and family.  That night we slept in our swags on the lounge room floor, at least after Ronnie ejected his grandkids who had taken over our swags before heading for bed themselves. 

It was a trip I longed to do for many years and brought me memories I will always cherish.  I returned the Street Swag to Jeanie and told her about the trip and how appreciative I was for the swag that saw many warm comfortable nights over the fortnight away spent on river banks, back yards and the odd veranda.

I told Jeanie I’d be happy to recommend her Street Swags to anyone who wanted to travel light and comfortable. Having used it I can understand why it's ideal for people sleeping rough."

by David Mapstone

Student interview of Jean Madden: Street Swags