In the whipped red dirt and blazing heat they gather. An annual pilgrimage that is distinctly Australian in flavour – dizzied with sweat, beer and laughter. Established as a fundraiser back in 1882, the Birdsville Races has grown to become Australia’s largest country racing carnival, with up to 8,000 visitors (and their cars, caravans and light aircrafts) descending on the tiny, desert-edge community every year. The region’s main highway, The Birdsville Track, all but shuts down: its quiet thoroughfare replaced with the chaotic rhythm of hooves on hard earth, a chorus of bells and cheering. We meet just one of the carnival’s many addicts, Brisbane barman Keith – who knows his annual visit not only helps keep the spirit of the Birdsville Races alive, but the town itself too.

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Words by Tess Curran

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