The Australian Barbie (BBQ)

The barbecue or BBQ progressed  from a chop picnic to a shrimp.  It is termed affectionately – the barbie.

The barbecue has been familiar to Australians since the 1920s, when it probably grew out of the ‘chop picnic’. The term came from the West Indies and was associated with a large outdoor event, sometimes a political campaign, where a carcass was roasted. This was the term used, in the West Australian in 1928, to describe roasting an animal out of doors for a public event and, typically in the 1930s, barbecues followed this model.


One of the biggest barbecues at this time was at the RAAF Base Laverton in 1934, celebrating both the centenary of John Batman’s treaty or deed of purchase of the lands of Melbourne, and the finish of the Centenary Air Race from London to Laverton, just outside of Melbourne.

The RAAF hosted an air display at Laverton on 10 November 1934 to celebrate the end of the race and planned to roast 20 bullocks over open fires.
As interest in the event increased, a further seven bullocks were donated and roasted but this was not enough to sate the appetites of the 200,000 people who turned up, doubly disappointed with the onset of rain.

By the 1940s, the barbecue had become a domestic event with sausages and chops sizzled over an open fire. By the 1950s, although barbecues had begun to be installed in public parks and picnic areas, these were largely used for private family affairs.

In the 1950s and 60s the barbecue became the essential feature of every Australian home — whether permanent or temporary structures — and the total lack of formality of people standing up or sitting on rustic benches was reminiscent of bush cooking.

In the 1970s the range of barbecue ingredients ranged from chops and sausages, to prawns and scallops, chicken and quail, with the meat sometimes marinated and cooked on skewers. New expressions emerged as part of the barbecue culture, such as ‘throw a shrimp on the barbie’.

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