The Shiralee tells the story of the itinerant rural worker Macauley - sometimes described as a 'swagman' or 'swaggie' - who suddenly finds himself taking responsibility for his child. Having returned from 'walkabout', he finds his wife entwined in the arms of another, and so he takes his four-year-old daughter, Buster, with him. The child is the 'shiralee', an Aboriginal word meaning 'burden'. In their time together, father and daughter explore new depths of understanding and bonding. The barren landscapes of the outback are central to the swagman's love for his country and provide a backdrop to the richness of his developing relationship with Buster.