Swagman character jug produced by Swagman Pottery of Queensland, Australia, circa 1980. A swagman was a transient laborer who travelled by foot from farm to farm carrying his belongings in a swag. The term originated in Australia in the 19th century and was later used in New Zealand. Swagmen were particularly common in Australia during times of economic uncertainty, such as the 1890s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many unemployed men travelled the rural areas of Australia on foot, their few meager possessions rolled up and carried in their swag. Their swag was frequently referred to as "Matilda", hence Waltzing Matilda refers to walking with their swag.