The Shiralee tells the story of the itinerant rural worker Macauley —sometimes described as a “swagman” or “swaggie”— in Australia of the 1940s, who suddenly finds himself taking responsibility for his daughter Buster. Having returned from “walkabout”, he finds his wife entwined in the arms of another, and so he takes 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 provided both a backdrop to the richness of the relationship, as well as explaining the swagman’s love for the country.
In the 1957 movie, Macauley is played by Peter Finch and Buster is played by Dana Wilson. In the 1987 remake, Macauley is played by Bryan Brown and Buster is played by Rebecca Smart.
The spanking scenes
This is about the 1987 mini-series.
Buster is depicted as an adorably cute girl. She is slender, has a fair complexion with freckles and wears her blonde hair in two braids. She wears a too big pair of beige overalls throughout the film and always carries Gooby, her stuffed animal.
On the first breakfast meal after Macauley kidnaps his own daughter who doesn't even know him, Buster refuses to eat her cornflakes. Macauley threatens to slap her face and forces her to eat. Buster is a strong-willed child but Macauley is even more strong-willed, and he is a grown man.
On the next day, Macauley finds work at a farm. Several men are holding down a cow so it can be branded by Macauley. Buster runs towards the group, trying to stop her daddy, and the cow kicks one of the men hard in the leg. Macauley carries Buster away, puts her over his knee and spanks her (M/f), which makes her cry.
In the coming up months, Buster comes to love her daddy more and more, and he has to cope with having the responsibility and burden, but also the joy of looking after a child while he is constantly travelling and looking for work. When the two meet Bella (Julie Hamilon), a married woman who is really fond of Buster, she hugs and kisses Buster and keeps patting and rubbing the girl's overalls-clad bottom as her sign of intense affection.
In a second spanking scene, which is near the end of the series, Macauley and Buster are at a funeral. During the priest's recital at the grave, Macauley tells Buster to stop talking to Gooby. She again talks to him and says "Six foot down and dead in the grave is a better world than our mom will ever be" (repeating something her father said once). Macauley scoops her up and spanks her (off screen).
Both of these spankings occur outdoor and in public, and there is no big fuss made about them. They are ad hoc and on the spot, and Buster holds no hard feelings for her Daddy for spanking her. They are just depicted as a normal part of childhood in rural Australia of the time. In the story, they only play a role as part of the various bonding things that cement the father-daughter relationship. Trivia: The same child actress, Rebecca Smart, is also spanked in the 1988 film Celia.