Green’s Dictionary of Slang

knockabout man n.

also knockabout joey
[knockabout n.]

1. (Aus., also knockabout, knockabout hand) an unskilled labourer or handyman on a sheep station.

[Aus]Sth Aus. Register (Adelaide) 8 Feb. 2/2: The following classes have been hired [...] farming hands, water-drawers, knockabout hands.
[Aus]Sth Aus. Register (Adelaide) 1 Feb. 4/4: The following classes have been hired during the past week:- Blacksmiths, knockabout hands, and shepherds.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 64: We were all paid up — shearers, washers, knockabout men, cooks and extra shepherds.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer I 139: You may as well tell us what sort of work you bolted from to turn knock-about-man.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ In Bad Company 144: One or two of the ‘knockabouts’ would have given him ‘the office’.
[Aus]E. Waltham Life and Labour in Aus. 44: We were dubious as to whether he was the ‘Boss’ or the knockabout Joey.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 62: A handyman on a station, otherwise called a [...] knockabout.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 235/1: knockabout – a station roustabout or a handyman.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 66/2: knockabout handyman, or station hand from c.1875.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

2. a layabout, an idler.

[Aus]Centennial Mag. (Sydney) 234: Here he was, a ragged, hard-up tramp, a ‘knock-about’ as Talgai called him [AND].
[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 312: If Neicie‘s husband had been a ‘knockabout’, Curly could have dealt with him according to the unwritten rules of his own circle.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Four-Legged Lottery 117: The prisoners can be divided roughly into three categories. First offenders and ‘knock-about men’ (semi-criminals who come here at infrequent intervals); hardened criminals; and, thirdly, ‘poofters’ (homosexuals).
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Apr. 44/3: A knock-about (or knock-around) is what the British might call a lay-about. That is, a guy who is appalled at the idea of an honest day’s work.