If you’ve ever driven along the Eyre Highway between South Australia and Western Australia, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of the Big Kangaroo in Border Village. Standing at over 8 metres tall and 12 metres long, this iconic landmark is hard to miss. But how did this giant kangaroo sculpture come to be, and what’s the story behind it?
As it turns out, the Big Kangaroo has a fascinating history that dates back to the 1980s and involves a group of creative individuals who were looking to attract visitors to their truck stop in anticipation of the America’s Cup. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of the Big Kangaroo and how it became a beloved symbol of the region
How The Big Kangaroo Became a Landmark for America’s Cup Visitors
When Australia won the America’s Cup in 1983, the entire nation went into wild celebration. So when it was revealed that the 26th edition of the cup would be held in Fremantle, many locals and visitors were looking forward to the event. At the time, many people believed that the competition would attract many visitors from all over the country.
Two men, Brian Rucioch and Allan Schwarz, owned a truck stop in Border Village. When the two business partners found that the town could receive thousands of visitors in a couple of months, they came up with the idea of creating a giant kangaroo statue. The main goal of the kangaroo sculpture was to attract travellers to the truck stop.
But the Big Kangaroo was not their first choice; they initially wanted Matilda the Kangaroo, which served as the official mascot of the 1982 Commonwealth Games held in Brisbane. After failing to acquire Matilda, who was overseas at the time, the duo settled for a new gigantic kangaroo.
The construction of the massive kangaroo sculpture involved several people. A renowned local signwriter and artist, Bill Metherel, famously known as Saltbush Bill, drew the new big kangaroo. The two business partners, Brian and Allan, then constructed the main body in Ceduna, while the head was designed by Val Samsonenko, a local art teacher.
After creating the design, Horrie Jolly, a local fisherman, joined Saltbush Bill in painting the sculpture.
Naming the Big Kangaroo
The creators of the larger-than-life kangaroo sculpture then ran a competition dubbed ‘Name the Kangaroo’ in a local newspaper. The competition received a lot of attention, with entries from all over the Eyre Peninsula.
The name ‘Ruey’ was the most popular, but there was a problem; Brian Rucioh’s nickname was also Ruey. So to avoid any confusion, they decided to name the kangaroo sculpture Ruey II. But then, Saltrush Bill spelt the name Ruey wrong, giving him a new name Rooey II.