Josh Arnold’s Queensland Songs

I love stories about Queensland, especially the regions and small towns; and so I was delighted when Josh Arnold was featured in this week’s episode of the ABC’s “Backroads” with Heather Hewitt. They visited Birdsville, Dajarra and Camooweal, little towns in the far west of the state. For each town, Josh has written a song for the local school and filmed the kids singing it.

I’ve been aware of Josh’s school songs for a while now. An award-winning country music singer, songwriter and guitarist, Josh grew up at the small town of Tara, west of Dalby.

Josh Arnold

For over a decade, in collaboration with the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba and local councils and groups, Josh has been running a project called Small Town Culture. He visits schools in country towns across Queensland and makes songs with the students.

Josh, a family man and school worker himself, has a gift for getting kids to relax with him and have fun. The children tell him what’s special about their area and the things they like to do. He makes up a song, including their ideas; they learn to sing it, with Josh on guitar. Adults and local musicians get involved, too – especially in a place like Birdsville, where at the time of filming for “Backroads” the school had just three pupils.

At Birdsville, with Heather Ewart and the three pupils enrolled at the school, with the school principal at the piano

A video is filmed, with the kids singing, running, playing, riding dirt bikes, swinging on playgrounds, sliding down sand dunes, cracking whips, on horseback, splashing in creeks; from the green of South East Queensland’s Scenic Rim to the red dirt of Dajarra and Camooweal.

With the Camooweal kids


Josh travels with a camera operator, and the production values of the resulting videos are impressive.

Shared on Youtube and elsewhere, they are beautiful, full of sunset shots and happy people, and always the song. The whole process must be an unforgettable delight to all involved, and a source of pride in tiny, isolated places where people rarely see themselves on film.

Blackall, Wallumbilla, Lowood, the Boyne Valley; Miriam Vale to the Gold Coast, Quinalow to Cunnamulla; Charleville, Warwick, Miles, Rockhampton and more. Josh Arnold has been to some places I’ve never visited myself, such as Cooyar, or Darlington. At Ewan, in the dry country back of Townsville, Josh filmed a song at the Outreach Centre of the Charters Towers School of Distance Education.

Along with his school songs project, Josh records his own music, as you can hear and see for yourself on Youtube or his Facebook page.

Josh Arnold is a musician with a great appreciation of people, places and stories. He has a gift.

NB Photos with this story are taken from Josh Arnold’s Facebook page and

Reading Queensland

I like reading books about places. It adds extra layers of enjoyment to my travels, in Queensland and beyond. They can be learned and literary books, or lighter romances and mysteries; but sharing in the experiences of others, especially when they’re good observers, helps me to get under the surface of a place.

These are just a few of my favourite books about Queensland.

Please add other titles in the comments section. I’m always looking for more.



  • “The Commandant”, Jessica Anderson. Fine, literary, perceptive novel of convict imagesBrisbane under Captain Logan. Brutality and death in the penal colony as observed by the Logan womenfolk. 


  • Affection”, Ian Townsend. 2010. Historical novel set in Townsville in 1900 when the affectioncity was under threat of the plague. Doctors enforce unpopular measures to prevent it. (Dilemma of scientists: if they succeed in preventing a threatened disaster, people will say it wasn’t a danger in the first place.)



  • “Carpentaria”, Alexis Wright. A magnificent literary saga of the Gulf of Carpentaria, written by an Indigenous Australian with a unique and fullsizeoutput_3e0caccomplished voice and an authentic image of the land, its people and its mythology. In the tradition of Xavier Herbert.



  • “The Birdwatcher”, William McInnes. A sweet, wise, grown-up love story set in Far 9780733632976North Queensland. Some ‘60s nostalgia, poetry, and lots of birds.




  • “My Island Homicide”, Catherine Titasey. Set on Thursday Island, this is a likeableimages romance/detective novel. Authentic language and background in a fascinating part of Queensland.



  • “Ryders Ridge”, Charlotte Nash. An enjoyable rural romance set inryders north-west Queensland. Red dirt, big hats, doctors.




  • “The Grazier’s Wife”, Barbara Hannay. 2017. A multi-generation rural romance setthe-grazier-s-wife on the Atherton Tableland. Cattle, rainforest, Singapore, antiques, a secret will.



  • “Boy Swallows Universe”, Trent Dalton. 2018. Enjoyable, scary, boy swallowsuplifting, suspenseful story of growing up in a crime-affected family in Brisbane. Darra and Bracken Ridge, Boggo Road Gaol and City Hall. Violence and love.



  • “Border Watch”, Helene Young. 2011. A FNQ romantic thriller Northern-Heat1written by an ex- airline captain and Border Patrol pilot. One of several novels by this author set in Queensland including “Safe Harbour”, 2014, and “Northern Heat”, 2015, which is set in Cooktown.




  • “Lonely Planet – Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef”, and “Lonely Planet – Australia”. The first covers the tourist areas and the coast; the second covers the inland areas of the state. Lots of interesting local information.


  • “A History of Queensland”, Raymond Evans. 2007. Interesting scholarly in-depth account by a well-known historian ofimages Qld life and development from earliest human habitation to the 2000s. 



  • “Love in the Age of Drought”, Fiona Higgins. 2009. The memoir of a loveSydney woman who marries a farmer from Jandowae, on the Northern Darling Downs. Love, drought, life in a small town, the black soil plains west of the Bunya Mountains. I lived here as a teenager.



  • “Brisbane”, Matthew Condon. 2010. Affectionate, memoir-style look at Brisbane, its history, condon brisbanearts, way of life and unique qualities as a lively sub-tropical city, by a journalist who knows the city well: its good and its bad. (Part of the “Secret Life of Your City” series about State Capitals.)



  • “Birdsville”, Evan McHugh. 2009. Dust storms, bogs, sand dunes, race meetings, rescues,images locusts, building a golf course in the desert: a Sydney freelance writer and his graphic designer wife spend twelve months in Birdsville.



  • “Conspiracy of Silence: Queensland’s frontier killing times”, Timothy Bottoms. 2013. imagesHarrowing account of the acts of violence that accompanied pastoralists’/investors’ seizure of Queensland pastoral land from Aboriginal inhabitants.



  • Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland”, Constance Campbell Petrie. tom petrieRe-published 2014. This important 1904 book details life in Brisbane and South-east Qld from 1837, when little Tom Petrie arrived at the convict settlement of Moreton Bay with his family. Local Aboriginal people, their foods, customs and language, as well as convict life and early white exploration.


  • “Cairns: City of the South Pacific. A history 1770-1995”, Timothy Bottoms. cairns-city-of-the-south-pacific-history-productInteresting, ambitious, detailed work.

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