Crow-eaters, Sandgropers, Banana benders, Cornstalks and More

Crow-eaters, Sandgropers, Banana benders, Cornstalks, Gumsuckers and more … do you know the origin of these Australian names for those from various states?

No, well you might be quite surprised to know the history behind them. Some you’ve probably heard of, other maybe not.

I’ll list them alphabetically by state.

Cornstalks, Cockroaches, Welshies (New South Wales)
The term Cornstalks dates back to the 1820s or earlier, and refers to the children of convicts who were born in Australia (primarily New South Wales) who amongst other things were “taller than their British counterparts and had a distinct way of talking”. See more here. Other more recent names that people from New South Wales are sometimes referred to Cockroaches as a reference to their rugby team, and Welshies (for obvious reasons).

Kanakas, Bananalanders, Banana benders (Queensland)
Queensland has had multiple names over the years, but it seems the original one was that a “Queenslander” was known as a “kanaka”. Unfortunately the origin of this isn’t a great one. From the later 1860s through until the early 1900s more than 60,000 islanders (those from Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, and the some parts of Papua New Guinea) were recruited to work on sugar plantations in Queensland, these people were nicknamed “Kanakas,” which is a Hawaiian term meaning “human being”. Other more recent names for a Queenslander is Bananalander and Banana bender – both with obvious connections to the banana industry in Queensland.

Crow-eaters, Wheatfielders (South Australia)
Anyone who is into sport will have heard of the term Crow-eater, but I’m sure you’ll find the origin of the term quite surprising. It was on 6 February 1925 that the Register newspaper for reported that this term … “was first applied to some of the original settlers at Mount Barker who – whether from necessity or a desire to sample strange native fauna – killed, cooked and ate some crows disguised under the term “Mount Barker pheasants”… Later the term… was applied generally to all.” For another explanation see more here and here. Another reference to a South Australian is a “Wheatfielder” which is no longer used these days and while I have found many references to it, have not found the origin of it yet.

Apple Islanders, Taswegians, Tassies, Jam-eaters (Tasmania)
Thanks to the apple growing industry in Tasmania, Tasmanians have gained the name ‘Apple Islanders’. I did find one mention of them having previously known as ‘Barracoutas’ or ‘coutas’, after the creature that supported fishing families and was a staple during the starvation years, but I cannot find any further reference to that one, so I’m doubting its validity. However other names that Tasmanian’s have been know are Taswegians, Tassies, and Jam-eaters. See more here.

Gumsuckers, Cabbage Gardeners (Victoria)
Victoria is yet another state that has multiple names that its residents have called over time, neither of which are generally used these days. Cabbage Gardener was the first (known), with references that date back to the 1880s. Since the colony of Victoria was colloqually known as the “Cabbage Garden Patch”, Victorians were known as Cabbage Gardeners. Gumsuckers was another one, and possibly originated from Victorians sucking gum leaves (as reported in The Australian Worker, on 29 December 1926. See more here.

Sandgropers (Western Australia)
This is one term that all Aussies seem to know, an inhabitant of Western Australia is called a sandgroper. But why? The sandgroper is a small a native insect found in Western Australia, that burrows in the sand, so it may be named after that. However another theory written in 1945 is that it “originated with the ‘tothersiders who flocked to the western colony in the early nineties in search of gold. Perhaps the idea suggested itself to them because of the sandy wastes which constituted suburban Fremantle and Perth half a century or more ago. Anyhow, they wrote back to their relatives in the East (possibly to engage their sympathy) describing Western Australia as a land of sand, sin, sorrow and sore eyes. Is there anything to wonder at that “Sandgroper” seemed to them appropriate as a description of the denizens of this colony?”  See more here.



9 Responses to “Crow-eaters, Sandgropers, Banana benders, Cornstalks and More”

  1. Crissouli says:

    Hi Alona, I’ve included this post in Interesting Blogs.. thank you.

  2. Collene says:

    What about NT and Canberra?

  3. Alberto Rossi says:

    Here in Sydney Victorian migrants to NSW are sometimes referred to, disparagingly, as “wetbacks” or “Mexicans”. This apparently implies that they have had to swim across the not so Rio Grande, the Murray River, in order to reach to reach the nirvana of the North.

    Such references seem to be associated with barbie discussions about the seeming inability of ex-Victorians to fully assimilate into the Sydney culture by eschewing their AFL allegiances in favour of Rugby League or Association football and continuing to “barrack” for their Melbourne team or worse yet, supporting the transplanted South Melbourne or the forced hothouse GWS.

  4. Matt Smith says:

    The term Cockroaches applies to the NSW State-of-Origin rugby league team. The NSW rugby team are instead called the Waratahs.

  5. Jeff says:

    If you’re going to have cockroaches for NSW then you should include cane toads for Qld as their State of Origin counterpart.

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