The Australian Ute

When I wrote my first Australian novel, an English friend asked me what I meant by a ‘ute’. I was shocked. Utes are such an intrinsic part of life in Australia – particularly in the bush, that it never occurred to me that anyone would not know what a ute was.

Ford ute
A classic Ford ute

Ute stands for utility – a utility vehicle and I doubt there’s a rural property anywhere in Australia that doesn’t have at least one… or possibly more than one.

A Dodge ute at the Jondaryan Woolshed, QLD
A Dodge ute at the Jondaryan Woolshed, QLD

Classic utes are generally white, and smaller than what the American’s call a ‘truck’. They go on forever – and it’s not at all uncommon to find a very old ute still in everyday use.

Ute + Dog
Ute + Dog = Australian icon

I think I drove my first ute when I was about 13. (On a sheep farm, of course. Not on a public road – that would have been illegal.) Utes are what all young men, and quite a few young women, drive in the bush – often with a working dog in the back.

Cars are a status symbol everywhere – and the Australian bush is no exception. Sometimes a ute becomes more than just a workhorse. This is where ute shows come into the picture. Often held with Bachelor and Spinster Balls, the shows give proud ute owners a chance to show off their prized possessions and compete for coveted trophies.

Ute Line
The Ute Line, at the 2009 Pittsworth Show, QLD

Not every ute is polished and perfect… take for example the feral ute…

Feral Ute
A Feral Ute at the 2009 Pittsworth Show

… which must be covered with stickers from as many B&S balls as possible.

Chick's Ute
A Chick's Ute at the 2009 Pittsworth Show

There is the chick’s ute class…

Town Ute
A Town Ute at the 2009 Pittsworth Show

…and competitions for big shiny new utes.

The important thing about utes is that they never die. They just sit in a shed…

 retired ute…and wait for someone to come along and love them.

Dalgety Garage Ute
The Dalgety Garage Ute, Dalgety, NSW