Take a drive through regional or rural Australia and it won’t be long before you spot an unusual mailbox with a story to tell.
They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from unwanted household appliances to ambitious works of art.
A two-metre-tall emu, a pig made from a gas bottle, a rusty microwave, even an old toilet – it seems like anything goes when it comes to collecting mail in the bush.
Retired carpenter Ray Savage from Albany on Western Australia’s south coast says rural traditions may have something to do with it.
I think when a lot of blokes retire and they come off the land and they’re quite good with their hands, they just tinker around in their sheds and come up with different designs,’’ he said.
“Most people use what’s lying around the backyard, because the motto for the old backyard Aussie is you never throw anything out because you never know when you’re going to need it.”
That’s exactly the approach Mr Savage took when building his mailbox – an emu-like sculpture that he calls Silver Bird.
“It’s just a cut-down beer keg, which I got from a salvage yard, and it’s pretty well all stainless steel so it won’t rust,” he said.
“The neck part came off a wrecked fishing boat out at Israelite Bay.
“I just happened to have my angle grinder with me, so I cut a bit of the railing off.
“The legs are star posts, so it should be around for a fair while. The reflectors came off an old push bike, so it’s a handy landmark at night.”
The ideal mailbox
Australia Post recommends mailboxes should be large enough for an A4 envelope to lie flat inside.
It should be 230mm wide, 330mm deep and 160mm high and should be free of sharp or jagged edges.
In addition, mailboxes should be between 900mm and 1200mm off the ground and should be positioned on the property boundary or on a fence next to a driveway, with the number clearly displayed.
Wendy Allan, an Australia Post contractor of 14 years who delivers to the outlying areas of Albany, says creative mailboxes are OK.
“As long as it’s easy to reach and it caters to the amount of mail that you get,” she said.
“A big opening on the back is good. It depends on what area they’re in too; they may want to put a lock on that.
“And it depends on how many small articles they get. If they get a lot, then they can leave the back open and we can put the mail in.”
Ms Allan says she delivers mail to several home-made mailboxes on her run and enjoys their quirky nature.
“It’s something different to see on your run and it shows people’s creativity,” she said.
The dream mailbox
Nearby Elleker resident Keith Richardson was inspired to make his mailbox after his neighbours made theirs, including a model pistol and a toilet.
He is now the proud owner of a mailbox made from a beer keg that he acquired from a replica 19th century sailing ship.
“I asked them if I could buy a couple of kegs to make a mailbox and they said ‘You can have them’,” Mr Richardson said.
“The stand it’s made on is actually from a drilling rod from a gold mine and I just asked them if I could have the one that was a bit wrecked and they said, ‘Yeah, you can have it’,” he said.
Mr Richardson said if he ever won the lottery he’d have a new Kenworth prime mover as his mailbox.
“Because I drive trucks and stuff like that and I like my Kenworths,” he said.
“But I actually drive a Volvo.”