During the vibrant era of the 50’s and 60’s, when Australia was riding on the sheep’s back, wool was pound for pound and cattle were worth their weight in gold; Cunnamulla was booming. Large properties in the area were employing hundreds of young men who worked from sun up to sun down, often seven days a week, mustering sheep, chasing scrubbers and breaking in horses. At the end of a hard day’s work, they would sit around the campfires on their saddles or swags yarning about the day’s events.
When they came to town, the pubs would overflow and these young fellas could be seen squatting around the streets in a pose that became legendary. It was around this time that Stan Coster penned the song “The Cunnamulla Fella”, which went on to be immortalized by the late Slim Dusty.
“Well I’m a scrubber, runner and a breaker too, I live on damper and Wallaby stew, I’ve got a big cattle dog with a staghound’s cross, I never saw a scrubber he couldn’t toss, Cause I’m the fella from Cunnamulla, Yes I’m the Cunnamulla Fella”
Stan Coster’s lyrics embody the spirit of the Cunnamulla Fella and pay tribute to the hard working stockmen of the time.
A nationwide competition was launched in 2003 inviting artists to portray their version of the Cunnamulla Fella in any chosen medium. Eventually, the winning sketch would be transformed into a large-scale bronze statue and permanently erected in the main street of Cunnamulla on the site of the old Great Western Hotel.
Around fifty entries were received from all over the country, with many varied ideas of what the Cunnamulla Fella may have looked like. The winner Michael Nicholas, a respected environmental painter from Brisbane, produced a sketch of a young stockman in squatting position after a hard day’s work.
Mike Nicholas has strong family connections with Cunnamulla and his art demonstrates a deep affinity for Australia’s desert country and the flora and fauna within those environs. His work finds its place in domestic and international exhibitions, programs, publications, books, company and government commissions and private collections.
Sculptor Archie St Clair was commissioned to produce a twice life size bronze statue of the Cunnamulla Fella, derived from Michael Nicholas’ winning sketch.
The Cunnamulla Fella was unveiled to the public on Friday, 18th November, 2005 as a legacy to the stockmen of the era and to honor song writer Stan Coster and the late Slim Dusty, who together with his family and band members had performed in town many times over the years.
The Cunnamulla Fella draws tourists from around the country, culminating in November for the annual Cunnamulla Fella Festival. When you come to visit Cunnamulla, be sure to get a great treat in visiting this historic site. Pictures don't do justice to the great feeling of awe and joy that comes with seeing it in person.