Australia's colonial experience was very different to that of America. In Australia, the restriction of firearms in a convict society combined with the harsh Australian environment to ensure that Australian farming communities were low density and not in a position to war with the natives. America, on the other hand, was flooded with guns and was able to use those guns to forcibly take fertile land that could sustain high-density farming communities.
The different history and environment in turn shaped the story telling genres of the two cultures. America developed a story telling genre based around Cowboys fighting Indians. Because Australia had no such history of conflict, it never created a story telling genre based around Aborigines fighting Stockmen. With no history of noble colonists fighting barbaric natives to draw from, George Miller imagined a tribal conflict in the future in which he could tell the classic western style story of a lone warrior protecting the civilised against marauding savages.
In Mad Max 1, society is breaking down due to restrictions in fuel. Max is a police officer trying to maintain some sense of law and order in outback Australia. A bikie gang has come to town; raping, pillaging and murdering. Included in the victims is Max's best mate, wife and child. In revenge, Max picks off the gang one by one.
Mad Max was totally independently financed and had a budget of $300,000 AUD. The film achieved incredible success, and went on to earn $100 million world wide. In Australia, it was more successful than Star Wars.
In Mad Max II, George Miller infused more of the tribal elements typical of the American western. The movie begins with a voice, reminiscent of an Aboriginal story teller, explaining how the world broke down. The voice explains that two might warrior tribes went to war over the black fuel. The pumps fell silent and chaos reined. Those that survived were those who were fast and mobile; much like a hunter gatherer tribe. However, instead of hunting food, the tribes hunted fuel and/or scavenged for it like a hyena on a carcass.
Despite not having any Aborigines in the film, Miller clearly had them there in spirit. Critics, such as Richard Scheib, said that film transforms the "...post-holocaust landscape into the equivalent of a Western frontier," such that "...Mel Gibson's Max could just as easily be Clint Eastwood's tight-lipped Man With No Name" helping "...decent frightened folk" from the marauding Indians.