Macauley comes home from tramping the roads in search of work to find his wife in bed with another man and his little six year old daughter doped.  He snatches the child as revenge on his faithless wife and leaves, traveling now with his ‘shiralee’ or burden.  Yet the gruff Macauley comes to love her more and more as she misbehaves, wins hearts and opens doors on the way through the back roads of Australia.