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Australia's on the Wallaby

Our fathers came to search for gold
The mine has proved a duffer
From bankers boss and syndicate
We always had to suffer
They fought for freedom for themselves
Themselves and mates to toil
But Australia's sons are weary
And the billy's on the boil

Australia's on the wallaby
Just listen to the coo-ee
For the kangaroo he rolls his swag
And the emu shoulders bluey
The boomerangs are whizzing round
The dingo scratches gravel
The possum bear and bandicoot
Are all upon the travel

The cuckoo calls the bats and now
The pigeon and the shag
The mallee-hen and platypus
Are rolling up their swag
For the curlew sings a sad farewell
Beside the long lagoon
And the brolga does his last-way waltz
To the lyrebird's mocking tune

There's tiger-snakes and damper, boys
And what's that on the coals?
There's droughts and floods and ragged duds
And dried-up waterholes
There's shadeless trees and sun-scorched plains
All asking us to toil
But Australia's sons are weary
And the billy's on the boil


From Old Bush Recitations , collected by "Bill Bowyang" and published in 1933. To go "on the wallaby" or "on the wallaby track" or to "hump the drum" is to travel outback as a swaggie or sundowner, i.e. a tramp or itinerant worker. John Meredith collected a version from Noah Warren, a miner from Lithgow NSW, who got it from Joe Young who learned in Cairns. In that version the first verse goes:

Our fathers came in search for gold
The claim it proved a duffer
The syndicates and bankers' bosses
Made us all suffer
We're all for freedom for ourselves
Ourselves our mates of toil
Australia's sons are weary
And the billy's on the boil

Meredith notes that the tune "is a variant of the tune used in northern Queensland for Lawson's 'Freedom on the Wallaby' ".


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory