Cunnamulla celebrates the “fella” that put the town on the map

Richard Dinnen - Queensland Editor |

The statue of the Cunnamulla Fella honours the stockmen who inspired the Slim Dusty song
The statue of the Cunnamulla Fella honours the stockmen who inspired the Slim Dusty song

He roamed south-west Queensland in the 1950s, fighting in bars and loving under the stars, earning a quid working cattle and sheep.

There were many like him, back then. One, maybe all of them, inspired Stan Coster to write a song called “Cunnamulla Fella”, which became a hit when Slim Dusty recorded it in 1965.

It was the first time many Australians heard of Cunnamulla. Today, crowds are gathering in the town for an annual celebration of the “fella”, his exploits, and the way of life he represents.

Slim Dusty recorded Cunnamulla Fella in 1965

Paroo Shire Mayor, Suzette Beresford, said the Cunnamulla Fella Roundup attracts thousands of visitors and is a major boost to the local economy.

“I think the Cunnamulla Fella legend represented the average stockmen of the 1950s and the skills they had.

“The Roundup shows those skills, being able to ride a steer or a bronco. We’ve added barrel racing. There’s a rodeo, a concert. It means a lot to the town.”

And this year, the musical origins of the “fella” story have inspired an extra item on the program, the Stan and Slim event, where people are encouraged to do their take on the song, with prizes up for grabs.

There are many recorded versions of the song, including one by Australian rock band, The Screaming Jets. Mayor Beresford said the song, and the story it tells, are as popular as ever.

“I think Slim Dusty was an iconic singer, he had a lot of fans. And the song has stayed in peoples’ minds , it helped keep the legend alive.”

The song conjures a time when Cunnamulla was booming, when large numbers of men worked on big sheep and cattle properties in the district and drank on lively nights in the town’s pubs.

Stan Costa wrote Cunnamulla Fella

Where one of those pubs, the New Western, once stood, there is now a statue of the Cunnamulla Fella, created from a national competition in 2003 that asked people to sketch what they imagined the fella would look like.

Michael Nicholas, from Brisbane, created the winning entry, a young stockman squatting after a hard day’s work, which Michael saw many times when he was a police officer in the town in 1960.

Paroo Shire Council commissioned sculptor, Archie St Clair, to make the statue, which was unveiled in Cunnamulla in late 2005, after sitting for two days in Brisbane’s Queen Street mall.

It was a tribute to the character and song that had done so much for the town, and to the man who made it a hit record, Slim Dusty.

The Cunnamulla Fella Roundup begins today, with a program of events through until Sunday.