The term ocker is one of the most common Australian words. I think it's surprising to discover that ocker, in its common meaning, is a relatively recent import into the Australian language. It dates from the late 1960s.
As a nickname it has a longer history. Just as anyone with the surname McDonald is likely to be called Macca, or anyone with the surname Fowler is likely to be called Chook, so anyone with the personal name Oscar or Horace was likely to be called Ocker. In the 1920s, the Ginger Meggs cartoon included a character called Ocker Stevens, so anyone with the surname Stevens was also likely to be called Ocker.
But we need to turn the 1960s for our very Australian ocker. And we need to turn to the world of Australian television. In the Mavis Bramston Show (1963-68) Ron Frazer (1924-83) played the character Ocker. Gerry Wilkes in Exploring Australian English, writes:
'The talented comedian Ron Frazer appeared in a series of TV sketches from which I retain a mental picture of him leaning on a bar, speaking with a broad Australian accent, probably wearing shorts and thongs, and periodically sinking a glass of beer. As that character was called 'Ocker', ocker became the name of the type'.
Soon after this, the word was used as a derisive nickname for a person who exploits an exaggerated Australian nationalism. Thus in King's Cross Whisper, 1969, we find:
'Sir Ocker Fairfax, leader of the famous Foot and Mouth Jumping Brigade, received his gong for devising Operation Skippy'.
At about the same time, the term came to describe a rough and uncultivated Australian male, often aggressively Australian in speech and manner. This is well summarised in a passage from the Bulletin in 1977:
And you have the poofter problem. There seem so many poofs in Sydney as might cause serious concern about overcrowding to the housing authorities of Sodom. It is a statistical and biological impossibility for all these poofters to be homosexuals. They are refugees from the other tyrannical Australian myth, the ocker. Any young Australian man with a normal fondness for dressiness, an interest in the arts, a liking for a varied diet, a penchant for European travel, a preference for comfort, even a weakness for after-shave, measures himself against the ocker and instantly assumes himself queer'.
Ockers are primarily male. For a brief period in the 1970s there were references to ockerinas. In the Sydney Sunday Telegraph in 1976 we find:
'Ockerina of the week was surely the woman on the Eastern Suburbs bus, studying a race guide while slurping down a meat pie'.
But the true ocker is male.
The word wallaby (used to describe many smaller marsupials of the family Macropididae) is a borrowing into English from Dharuk (the Aboriginal language formerly spoken in the Sydney region). It first appears in written form in 1798.
The term wallaby track is first used to describe the path worn by a wallaby:
1846 J.L. Stokes, Discoveries in Australia: In some parts of the tall scrub were wallaby tracks.
By the late 1840s the term had been transferred to the route followed by a person who journeys through the country, especially in search of seasonal work. It often occurs in the phrase on the wallaby track:
1849 Stephen's Adelaide Miscellany: The police themselves are usually well-treated in the bush.. they make a 'round' through the district, and get a meal at every hut, and one man from every said hut (besides those mobs on the 'wallaby track') stops for a night at the police-station in return.
1932 J. Truran, Green Mallee: South Australia was still a long way off; too far for sore feet that were not used to the wallaby-track.
1979 W.D. Joynt, Breaking Road for Rest: We decided to put swags on our backs and go 'on the wallaby track'.
The phrase on the wallaby track is often abbreviated to on the wallaby:
1867 Australian Monthly Magazine: I have just had a row with my people and am off anywhere, on the wallabee, to try my luck.
1893 J.A. Barry, Steve Brown's Bunyip: I'm on the wallaby, looking for shearing, and, worse luck, haven't got no gold.