Vol. 1 No. 1 (2023)
General Section

Peter Carey’s “Homo Australiensis” in A Long Way from Home

Gábor Török
Pázmány Péter Catholic University
Pázmány Papers vol. 1. nr. 1.

Published 12/18/2023 — Updated on 06/13/2024


  • Peter Carey,
  • A Long Way from Home,
  • identity,
  • First Nations Australians,
  • Homo Australiensis


The paper examines Peter Carey’s first book about Indigenous Australians, a topic which he had neglected for decades. Until A Long Way from Home (2017) was written, the two-time Booker Prize winner renowned for portraying Australian identity had yet to confront this crucial matter which he believed was a fundamental issue of the country. Reasons behind this seemingly contradictory and lengthy absence are highlighted along with certain methods with which the author gradually exposes Australia’s shameful past in the treatment of First Nations people. Carey’s approach stays true to his body of work, namely the Aboriginal subject is complemented or intertwined with his portrayal of another layer of Australia’s history: the pan-European heritage of non-Indigenous Australians. But why and in what manner does he integrate European topics into a novel aiming to shed light on the maltreatment and neglect of First Nations Australians? Does this addition not dilute the original aim of paying homage to Indigenous Australia?

My paper argues that Carey successfully utilises certain European identity themes to help show the gravity of sins committed against Australian Indigenous people. The author’s modus operandi is to piece together seemingly neglected fragments of the European legacy with First Nations Australia to reveal a unified entity. Via Willie Bachhuber, a character who most Australians can connect or identify with, Carey joins together various Australian identities which may not have been connected beforehand. With this technique Carey helps ensure the novel is about and for all Australians. I believe that A Long Way from Home crowns Peter Carey’s career as fully depicting Australianness without including Aboriginal people has up until now meant a quite incomplete oeuvre. An ultimate Australian character so-far elusive to Carey, a Homo Australiensis has come to life via a pseudo-German-Balt-Hungarian-Australian, who is actually a First Nations Australian with a white biological father.