99 Australian Ways

Well this is odd. It was meant to be a song in the spirit of the Scared Weird Little Guys Come To Australia, rattling off long lists of the ways that humans can be killed, maimed and discommoded by Australia’s flora, fauna, geography and climate. Instead, it took an immediate turn into “black armband” (ie not stupidly jingoistic and racist) history, and then came out the other end kind of defiant and grimly hopeful. Not at all what I was expecting!

It’s to the tune of 99 Red Balloons (the English version) by Nena.

January 2011


Eleven ships in a summery bay
While the Captain stands there in his stiff-necked way,
Sends them out at the break of dawn,
To build a camp, and so on.
By the trees, locals are watching
Ask each other, what is this thing?
Soon they’ll learn, beneath the sky
99 Australian ways to die…

99 imported ways
Muskets, knives and new disease.
Run and hide, they try to say
That’s not a warning for themselves.
The land is quiet, old and wise,
Opens up her dusty eye
Teaching all these passers-by
99 Australian ways to die…

99 decisions made
99 bad dreams replayed
And hurry, hurry, in a flurry,
Tame the land and don’t be sorry
This is what we’re destined for
This is home, boys, on this shore
The Empire’s fate is on the line
With 99 Australian ways to die.

99 new kinds of beast
Each one could kill you twice at least
Stonefish, redback, crocodile,
Something new each quarter mile.
In order to subdue this place,
To stare the danger in the face.
Nonchalantly pass them by,
99 Australian ways to die.

99 years, then some more
Men lived on this fatal shore,
Fires, floods and sun so pretty
In every mad, romantic city.
Now, the message must be clear,
We are just not welcome here.
It isn’t even their revenge —
It’s just the way that life must go…