Green’s Dictionary of Slang

perish n.

In phrases

do a perish (v.)

1. (Aus.) to suffer extreme privation, esp. for want of a drink.

[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 28 Mar. 5/4: When a man (or party) has nearly died through want of water he is said to have ‘done a perish.’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘A Bush Publican’s Lament’ in Roderick (1972) 468: I’ve known what it is ter do a perish on the track meself.
[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 118: PERISH, DOING A: slang bush and city. In City, to sleep out in parks, to be homeless. In bush, to be short of food, water, or tobacco.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Dec. 31/2: It was out where broken bottles are more plentiful than green grass; [...] i.e. it was in Western Queensland. I had done a two-days’ ‘perish’ for mutton (my dog having been poisoned), but hoped to have my wants supplied at the homestead of a handy grazing-farm.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 25 Dec. 1/1: A nigger-driven Perth barman is threatened with the loss of his billet [and] he is ordered to equal his predecessor’s 150 per cent profit or do a Christmas perish.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Oct. 15/3: I was a bush worker them days, ’n’ was doin’ a three weeks’ perish in the red-’ot ’eart iv a draughty summer in the Western Distric’ when I struck Cooper’s.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 4 July 9/2: He made it warm, that speaker did – he told them they were monkeys! / Not apes of great intelligence, but low-browed forest flunkeys! / They were not fit, he told them straight, fine cocoanuts to cherish, / But should remain upon the ground, and do a humble perish.
[Aus]E. Dyson Missing Link [Internet] Ch. viii: Do a perish here from thirst while that cow of a man swills his fill [...] No, hanged if I do.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 48: We had to do a perish, no grub.
[Aus]H. Drake-Brockman Blister Act I: My shout, you coves. And make it snappy, Myrtle. We’re doing a perish.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 53: Do a perish, suffer greatly from thirst, hunger or destitution. ‘In a city, to sleep out in parks, to be homeless.’.
[Aus]Cusack & James Come in Spinner (1960) 328: I’m not the bloke to see an old pal what pulled me out of the mud at Passchendaele do a perish for the want of a drink.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 35: Doing a perish in this lousy wilderness Moses has steered ’em to.
‘The Black Tiger Snakes of Reevesby Island’ at www.barefootbushman.com [Internet] The storm water flushed most of the tadpoles downstream away from the hilly refuge. So this year the snakes will ‘do a perish.’.

2. (Aus.) of a show or entertainment, to fail to attract audiences.

[Aus]Punch (Melbourne) 16 Aug. 133/1: ​On this line (the southern) there have been too many shows lately. Clara Stephenson, supported by Madame Sceri, Miss Barry Lane and Messrs. Charley Burford, Wills, Palmer, Henri and some other half-dozen stars, is doing a perish up here.
on a perish

(Aus.) under duress.

[Aus]Truth (Perth) 24 Dec. 8/8: ‘Well, he left me on a perish / For some other parts to roam; / Who would many of a creature / What had scootered front a Home’.