There are not going to be any bludgers in my ministry..

Peter Beatie, Premier of Queensland, Sunday Program, 6 Feburary 2000

Jim Day, a Club House Hotel regular, says more migrants would be welcome if they pulled their weight. "It's not a place where bludgers are accepted. It's 90 per cent a one-class town. There's a few toffs and there might be a few undesirables but we're generally very friendly people."

Spot the migrant among the old white, Warrens, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 2001

It is simply untrue to paint a stereotype of Aboriginals as 'dole bludgers'.

Indigenous Law Resources, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania - CDEP Programs, Reconciliation and Social Justice Library

Traditionally, there has been nothing worse in Australian society than a bludger, or bludging bastard.

Before forcing a definition of the word down your throats, see what you can discern from the following quotes:

"It really eats at me that the government keeps calling us greedy bludgers and thugs.... I certainly don't believe I am a bludger"

Wharfie Alan Royle in The Sunday Times, 12 April 1998.

"No mate, I won't bludge off you" - Digger, Brisbane Pub, upon being offered a drink, Anzac Day 1999.

"That miserable bastard has been bludging all bloody year"

"I've been bludging all day on the internet"

"School? It's a bit of a bludge really"

"He's just bludging off us. I'm sick of it".

Confused? Well, that's possibly because the word has two meanings. One is to be idle or lazy.  This is the dominant meaning today. Hence, a bludger is a lazy bastard, or a bastard who isn't doing very much at all.  A bludger bludges, if that makes sense. Hence if Davo is bludging his arse off, he is doing bugger all.  He is being a bludger.  If something is a bludge, then it is very easy and you can bludge while doing it.

A genuine dole bludger, a particularly literate young man ... explained that he wasn't bothering to look for work any more because he was sick and tired of being treated like a chattel

The Bulletin, 1976

The second meaning parasitical in nature. Hence, to bludge off someone is to take something for nothing. A dole bludger is a bludging bastard who takes his or her unemployment benefits (the dole) and does not make a genuine effort to look for work. Australians are not fond of dole bludgers.  Interestingly, while the term dole bludger no doubt came about because of this meaning, younger Australians would probably associate a dole bludger with them being idle ie bludging in the first sense while they get their money.  Anyway, "Hey mate, can I bludge a ciggie" would be an example of this usage.  If someone violates the shout ethic then they are also bludging in this sense  (and sadly, this appears to be happening more and more in our 'modern' society). The bludging bastard bludged off us all night. And doesn't it give you the shits.

The Senate... recognises this unit, dubbed the 'dob-in-a-dole-bludger' phone line, duplicates mechanisms that already exist within the Department of Social Security for reporting alleged fraud.

Australian Senate Hansard, 23 May 1996.

John O'Grady offered this advice to 'New Australians' (They're a weird mob, 1957):

But if you are ever told you are a bludger, go home. A bludger is the worst thing you can be in Australia.  It means that you are criminally lazy, that you 'pole on your mates', that you are a 'piker' - a mean, contemptible, miserable individual who is not fit to associate with human beings.  No one will talk to you, or buy you a drink, and you've had it.  You will be called a bastard because you are a good bloke, but if you are called a bludger you probably are one.  You might be called a 'bludgin' bastard' in a rueful sort of way which is half admiring but the word bludger by itself is final condemnation. 

Most Australians wouldn't know the history of the word bludger, but it is an interesting one.  Originally, in Australian English, the word bludger came to mean someone who earned a living from prostitutes. This possibly came about from them bludgeoning those who wouldn't pay up.  The Australian Slang Dictionary (1882), defines a bludger as "a thief who will use his bludgeon and lives on the gains of immoral women", a meaning that has only become obsolete in the last fifty years. 

Not one worker that I have met thinks that he is a bludger. Not one of the workers' families has thought that it was a great hoot that Dad had a walking cane.

Hon. Mr Mickel, MP. Qld Hansard, 15 Apr 1999

From here it acquired the more general meaning of someone who earned money off the efforts of others.  And while now the practice of earning a living from the efforts of others seems so normal that you probably don't even recognise you are part of it, early this century most Australians earned a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. That is, they actually did something with their hands and earned money from the sweat of their brow.  Yard, honest yakka.  And to these men, honest, dinkum Australians, any white collar worker who stepped in, ordered them around, and demanded the lions share of the profits derived from their labour were scum of the earth. They were making money they did not work for. They were bludgers.

Of course in modern times society is in a lot of ways dominated by white collar workers, and so the old usage isn't of much good to the general population.  Keep your ear out for bludger usage, and drop us a line if you hear something worth reporting.


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