Green’s Dictionary of Slang

mulga n.

also Mulgaland
[SAusE mulga, one of various plants of the genus Acacia found in the dry inland of Australia; thus the dry inland itself. The Aus. term comes from Yuwaalaraay malga]

1. an uninhabited, sparsely populated or inhospitable region; thus used attrib. in combs., e.g. mulga madness, mental decay that can overtake those spending long periods alone in such regions; mulga scrubbers, stock that have run wild and deteriorated in condition; Mulga Bill, generic for a bushman.

[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer II 72: These fascinating territories of limitless mulga-downs.
[Aus]W.H. Ogilvie ‘Off the Grass’ in Bulletin Reciter 1880–1901 9: He loves the merry rattle of the stockwhip, and the tramp / Of the cock-horned mulga scrubbers when they’re breaking in the brush.
[Aus]J. Furphy Buln-Buln and the Brolga (1948) 🌐 A despondent mal-du-mulga sigh, bespoke the sensitive barbarian’s appreciation of the lady’s half-averted face and my stony silence.
[Aus]E.G. Murphy ‘Christmas Camp’ in Jarrahland Jingles 85: The miles are long in mulgaland, Beyond the beaten pad.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth, WA) Supp. 19 Dec. 25/5: Pincher [...] laughed as he whispered something to the boy from the mulga.
[Aus]Aussie (France) 4 Apr. 3/2: Fritz had been sending heavy stuff over into an area that he had previously left alone, so Mulga Bill decided to dig in and live in a dugout instead of a tent.
[Aus]L. Esson Drovers (1977) 9: Maybe the bush’ll miss me a bit . . . the tracks I’ve travelled, and a star or two, and the old mulga.
[Aus]E.G. Murphy ‘Mrs. Flanagan’s Frock’ Dryblower’s Verses 72: They still tell the story in the Mulgaland bars.
[UK]Era (London) 1 Feb. 9/3: This sheila [...] puts the hard word on this cricketer dope, to drive her into the mulga.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. (2nd edn) 52: Mulga madness, the ‘queerness’ sometimes developed in lone bushmen or fossickers.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 67: Scrubbers, bush scrubbers, mulga scrubbers, mallee pikers, kangaroos, myalls, scrub danglers, runabouts, stock that have run wild and deteriorated in condition.
[Aus](con. 1936–46) K.S. Prichard Winged Seeds (1984) 21: Bobby was away out in the mulga and couldn’t be found.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 236/1: mulga – a lie or a tall story. mulga madness – ‘touched’, ‘a little off’. used of some old prospector or someone who has been alone too long.
[US]J. Greenway ‘Australian Cattle Lingo’ in AS XXXIII:3 167: mulga scrubbers, myalls, scrub danglers, n. phr. Feral stock. From mulga, a type of acacia.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 15: All them scraggy old mulgas. [Ibid.] 58: Stuck up here in the mulga, when he could be earning good money down in the city.
[Aus]A. Chipper Aussie Swearers Guide 66: Mulga Bill. A simpleton, specifically from the Bush.
[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 110: It’s right back there in the cities. Not out in the sand and the mulga.
[Aus]M. Bail Holden’s Performance (1989) 275: Lately McBee had taken to publicly pointing to his war wound with the mulga walking stick.
[UK] (con. 1960s) D. Farson Never a Normal Man 229: Identical miles of disheartening scrub known as mongrel-mulga.
[Aus]S. Maloney Sucked In 113: Bypassing Kilmore [...] Not exactly the mulga, but you can’t be too careful once the houses run out.
[Aus]C. Hammer Scrublands [ebook] Mulga scrub. Hundreds of square kilometres of it.

2. attrib. used of one who lives in such a region.

[Aus]Worker (Brisbane) 4 Sept. 8/3: And if you like to learn a bit about the ‘Mulga Clan’ — Just listen to the patter of the Western shearer-man.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 10 Jan. 1/1: A Mulga mining man had a blue lightning time in a leading Perth pubbery.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Nov. 47/1: Then Mulga Mick grabs ’old o’ Bill, an’ cutely found an’ felt / A most auspicious spongy wad inside the corpse’s belt. / Then from a little chamois bag ’e pulls a fiver out – / ‘No Jimmy Woodsers ’ere,’ sez ’e; ‘It’s William’s turn to shout!’.

3. see mulga wire(s)

In compounds

mulga mutton (n.)

1. kangaroo meat.

[Aus]Menzies Miner (WA) 22 July 7/2: The ‘Little Westralians’ - the representatives of mulga mutton and the uninhabited wilderness - have concluded that Federation is not good for them.
[Aus]W. Aus. Sun. Times (Perth) 23 Feb. 2/1: They say [...] That ‘mulga mutton’ and grilled gohanna are succulent delicacies compared with the comforts obtainable thereon.
[Aus]Sun (Kalgoorlie) 2 Oct. 7/3: Imagine his dismay on reaching the sports to find that instead of a ‘mulga mutton,’ with the aid of a powerful pair of pince nez he was only able to discern a half-folded rug, lying at his feet .
[Aus]S. Thorne I’ve Met Some Bloody Wags! 125: Another ‘individual’ who lived in the district, ran over 7000 sheep and several hundred cattle, yet fed his family on mulga mutton, or hoppy steaks - our national emblem - kangaroo!
[Aus]Wagarno Station [restaurant menu] Main Course: Loin of Mulga Mutton in Paperbark with Quandong Chilli Sauce.

2. the meat of feral goats or sheep.

[Aus]M. Terry Across Unknown Australia 154: For tea that night there was a most excellent dish of mulga mutton - goat.
[Aus]Telegraph (Brisbane) 10 June 15/1: We grill our meat straight on the coals, whether it is beefsteak, mutton, chop, or mulga mutton - that is, goat.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 2 Dec. 13/6: We’ve seen ’em at a wayside pub / In days when rum was cheap enough, / Shoot mulga mutton in the scrub, / Providing there were sheep enough.
mulga wire(s) (n.) (also mulgagraph)

1. a ‘bush telegraph’, the ‘grapevine’.

[Aus]T. Quin Well-Sinkers 100: ‘How do you hear all this?’ [...] ‘Mulga wires, missus, mulga wires.’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Their Mate’s Honour’ in Roderick (1972) 759: They had got a mulga wire that Joe Large was at the Bridge Hotel.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Oct. 5/2: We saw Abdullah’s teams go forth by right of pad and pack; / We’d further news by mulgagraph from further up the track / (We knew that of the white men there the heart of one was black), / We saw Abdullah’s camels go... but never one came back!
[Aus]J. Armour Spell of the Inland 62: Everard was surprised. The ‘mulga wires’ had not told him this.
[Aus]I.L. Idriess Cattle King 78: ‘Any ‘outside’ news?’ [...] ‘I don’t take much notice of mulga wires.’.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 75: Among these terms [for rumour or gossip] are bush wire, mulga, mulga wire, gidyea, sugarcane, Tom Collins, and, probably best known of all furphy.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 236/1: mulga wire [...] – the source of falsehoods or tall stories.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 79: So when the big noise among the Israelites, Joshua, hears this on the mulga wire, he sends along a couple of spies.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 50: Related to these activities is the term for those who brought news of what the traps or troopers were doing to the bushrangers with whom they sympathised – bush telegraphs. bush telegraph and the even more evocative mulga wire are still in use to describe mostly, though not exclusively, rural rumour networks.

2. (also mulga) a rumour, a lie.

[Aus]E.S. Sorenson Quinton’s Rouseabout and other Stories 186: Oh, tell them that you just said it for a lark. It’ll be alright. They’ll be that delighted to find it was only a mulga that they’d toast you as ‘a jolly good fellow’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Sept. 36/1: Now the voice of Jumbuck, Horny and Co. is being heard in the land: ‘interfering with Private Enterprise,’ ‘addling the biggest egg in Queensland’s basket,’ ‘putting a heavy weight on the premier industry’ – the same old ‘mulgas’ that we know by heart, and are getting so full up of.

In phrases

go mulga (v.)

(Aus.) to take to the bush, thus to go off by oneself.

[Aus]Baker Drum.