Walkabout 's popularity was undeniably due in part to its high-quality visual appeal, but its readability was equally important. Although it was not a literary magazine in the traditional sense, its contributors included some of Australia's most popular mid-twentieth-century writers, including Henrietta Drake-Brockman, Mary Durack, Ernestine Hill, J. K. Ewers, Ion Idriess, Arthur Upfield and Patsy Adam-Smith. Other contributors too, including those submitting natural science articles, were selected at least in part on their rhetorical style. Across geographic, scientific, descriptive, travel and personal accounts, Walkabout 's articles addressed the readers affectionately and respectfully, drawing the urban readers into their authors’ experiences with remote parts of the nation, as well as the Asia-Pacific region. While some contributions read like extended letters home from travelling family members, other articles translated intellectual developments and technological knowledge into accessible terms that by no means talked down to their audience. Nor was this knowledge – often new information under formation, particularly in relation to ethnographic accounts of various indigenous cultures – received passively by readers. Letters to the editors, correspondence and other evidences of an active readership show a spirited engagement in the act of reading Walkabout and establishing its place in the rich cultural history of mid-century Australia.
Walkabout 's writers were a various lot, and they participated in a wide range of publication mediums and forums (Figure 2.1). While this chapter focusses on some of the better-known authors who also published popular fiction and non-fiction, many other highly skilled writers worked across different domains of public culture. Scientists such as Vincent Serventy and Charles Barrett; amateur travellers, sometimes the wives of men employed in government services; patrol officers and other government officials; anthropologists (amateur, students or the professionally employed); and journalists – all brought professional expertise and a diversity of opinion to the pages of magazines. Almost all writers tended to publish across different forums, often reflecting their diverse careers and experiences. Bill Harney – author of 16 classic Walkabout articles across the period 1947–57 – was also a regular contributor to the Bulletin and Overland magazines. He also wrote books based on his own life as cattleman, former patrol officer and protector of Aborigines, most notably his collaborations with A. P. Elkin, then professor of anthropology at the University of Sydney.