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Voices of Real Australia: Bronze statues reveal the link between pocket knives and outback life

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The Ringer at the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach in Queensland is festooned with all sorts of tools, and what appears to be a handy little knife. Picture: Queensland government.

The Ringer at the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach in Queensland is festooned with all sorts of tools, and what appears to be a handy little knife. Picture: Queensland government.

There are a few bronze statues dotted about the Aussie outback which may need modification if we were to start banning the wearing of pocket knives in the bush.

If we really needed more proof about the ridiculousness of the $100 fine handed out to a Chinchilla man last week for wearing his pocket knife, then look no further.

Look at the statue of the Ringer out the front of the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach in Queensland.

Or the tribute to the stockmen at Katherine in the Northern Territory, modelled on Sabu Peter Sing.

Yep, they were carrying.

Imagine locking up the legendary R.M. Williams for breaking the law, the company which bears his name still sells the leather pouches to fix them to your belt.

Of course the sculptors captured these outback champions at work, the law allows the carrying of knives or multi-tools for that.

For many they are an essential part of getting dressed in the morning, like pulling on your boots.

A little knife, or even a Swiss Army multi-tool, a Leatherman is most popular - can save a trip back to the ute, or the shed.

There's a 1001 jobs they can do, in short they are incredibly useful and time-savers.

As these statues prove, it has been this way for generations, and remain no less vital a farm tool today.

That's at work.

But at play, well that's where the problems begin.

The law says they are not be worn in public - at pubs, shopping centres, schools or the like.

The law-makers feared they might be used not as a tool but as a weapon.

Others could grab them off another's belt, or in a fracas, a desperate person could pull it out in self defence perhaps.

Makes perfect sense for the most part.

The tribute to the stockmen at Katherine in the Northern Territory, modelled on Sabu Peter Sing.

The tribute to the stockmen at Katherine in the Northern Territory, modelled on Sabu Peter Sing.

The problem is many people do wear them in public. They think nothing of it.

Once a knife is on your belt for many years, it becomes forgotten almost, like wearing the belt itself.

Laws are designed for the ones who deliberately cause community offence or resort to violence, not for the 99 per cent of law abiding citizens.

Wayne McLennan, aged 75, came to the attention of police for staying at the pub longer than he should have and still legally drive.

An initial positive breath test was overturned after he was taken back to the police station and was tested a second time to be below the blood-alcohol limit.

It was there police noticed he was wearing his small knife, something he had been doing for many years.

Mr McLennan said he was not aware he was breaking the law.

Lots of other folk would be in the same boat, lots.

Of course, we do not know the full circumstances of the "offending" but it would seem to us a caution or warning would be best in cases like this.

"Hey mate, can you put your knife out in the ute," or something along those lines. Not a court appearance, and all the fear which comes with that.

There might be other consequences. A conviction might cause issues for work, or void a gun licence application, or many other things.

We value our police as upholders of the law, which were not made by them but by our politicians through legislation mostly.

It might be worth a few minutes at the academy to remind trainees that country folk are not riding roughshod over community safety but are just going about their daily lives.

  • Editor's note: The author of this article is not related to the subject of the story.

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