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Australia's big things: missing, presumed undead

By Martin Young and Francis Markham - posted Thursday, 6 March 2014

On 24th February 2014 the disappearance of the Bowen's Big Mango was reported, mysteriously carted off in the dead of night. The whole affair received global attention. Images and narratives about the Big Mango burst into international cyberspace. It was internationally celebrated – in absentia.

The Big Mango was reported found late the next day. Youtube posted the news that it was publicity stunt by a fast food chain Nandos.

The disappearance of the mango was actually its dramatic reappearance online, in the simulated world of cyberspace. This does not just tell us just about the phenomenal rise of social media: it brings into questions the nature of reality itself in a digital age.


The fact that there was no 'real' theft is irrelevant. The simulation of a theft is much more convincing because it can be better orchestrated, controlled, and produced as a media spectacle. This 'theft' proved that we no longer need the 'real' to produce the virtual. As the advertising executives behind the so-called stunt know, it was the capture and broadcast of the disappearing act that was much more important than any real relocation of the 10-tonne construction.

Indeed, the 'real' now exists only to the extent that it can be reproduced as a series of images and texts for global consumption.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Australia's Big Things, once the vanguard of brash, optimistic, tourism development, are dying.

Decline of the Big Things

The Big Pineapple, opened in 1971, received Queensland's first Australian National Travel Association award. By 2009 it was in receivership, owing over half a million dollars to the ATO, finally sold to a local farmer in 2010. The Big Prawn at Ballina was destined a similar ignominious fate, only to be bought, given a $400,000 facelift, and resurrected by the Bunnings hardware chain as part of its new development in the town.

Other have been less fortunate and fallen into neglect and disrepair or become victims of vandalism. Before it was taken down in 2007 the big bull at Wauchope was constantly having its swinging testicles stolen.


This decline is global in scope. A New York Times article from 2003 reported efforts to preserve the remaining American Big Things, objects that are no longer the kitsch post-war symbol of American optimism, but more "an American penchant for commemorating …lost frontier(s)".

The development of new Big Things are now themselves exercise in media representation, such as the Big Poo in Kiama which was commissioned to generate coverage rather than to represent regional identity.

The disappearance of the 'real'

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About the Authors

Dr Martin Young is a lecturer in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Southern Cross University.

Francis Markham is completing a PhD at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the ANU. He is also a part-time research officer at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy at the ANU.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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