Another of my personal favorites from Slim Dusty is “Australia’s on the Wallaby.”
“The Wallaby” in the title is short for the Wallaby Track–which really is no track at all, but refers to the roads and wilderness walked by itinerant works and dispossessed families in search of work. The term dates to the 1800s, and was even the title of a poignant painting –On the wallaby track — created in 1896 by Australian artist Frederick McCubbin. The painting shows a young family alone in the bush, with the wife holding an infant and her husband boiling the billy can over a small fire. So the term predates the Great Depression — but during the Great Depression, people again took to the Wallaby Track, though in greater numbers than ever before.
During the Great Depression, 1 in 3 Australians became jobless, and so a stunningly large percentage of the population was wandering in search of any kind of work that paid. Australia was, indeed, on the Wallaby. A book titled On the wallaby: a true story about the Great Depression in Australia in the 1930s, by William Kidman, reinforces the identification of the term with this period.
The “cooee” in the song is a cry used in the Australian bush to connect with other wanderers, to attract attention, or to indicate one’s location.
This particular video is not in particularly good shape, but you can hear the song clearly. I hope you enjoy it as much as I always have. The song is, like most Australians, cheerful despite difficulties being faced.