‘Larrikin’, now a common Australian English word that during the 19th and early 20th centuries referred to ‘a thug, a hooligan’, or ‘a young city lout, a hoodlum’, which bore obsolete meanings. During the late 20th century, when nuances were primarily of ‘a young mischievous person, an uncultured, rugged but warm hearted person’, or ‘a person who behaves with evident ignorance of political or social conventions.
Critics denoted the larrikin smudge in Australian culture, and have distinctly synthesized probable roots of its origins. Few commentators opine that larrikinism protruded as a response against arbitrary, corrupt author while Australia was positioned as a Penal Colony, while others are of the opinion that the word came into usage to purport a rebel against proprietary norms regulated by English officials in the newly emerged Australia. ‘Mr. Justice Blackburn in 1971 ruled that on the establishment of South Australia…New South Wales, each portion of the territory within the penal colony was to be considered crown property’ (Reynolds, 1987:7). The cultural and behavioural aspects of larrikinism may have originated as a response to such claims of arbitrary authorship of the British crown on Australian territories.
The word was specifically used to denote members of the Rocks Push. It was a noted criminal squad operating in The Rocks of Sydney during the latter period of 19th and beginning of 20th centuries. The gang was noted for its antisocial demeanour and particular gang-oriented dress codes. An October issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly in 1947 familiarized larrikinism with sabotage and arson, ‘These are people that leave their picnic fires aflame resulting in blazes, which deal with considerable harm to green loveliness and architectural monuments; a likewise larrikin strip sends thugs into urban parks with a purpose of shying stones at monuments and trip noses off statues.