Cunnamulla in far south-west Queensland has had its fair share of bad press in recent years.
Reports of unemployment, substance abuse and population decline have all added to the perception that the small bush town is dying.
In 2013 a burger chain even offered a trip to Cunnamulla as the main prize in a ‘weekend in hell’ competition.
But for Nic Land and his partner Katie-Rae Corling Cunnamulla is home.
Mr Land, who went to primary and high school in Cunnamulla, said the town had a feeling like nowhere else.
“Just the atmosphere and the way everything operates,” he said.
“I’ve grown up here all my life and it’s something you don’t get anywhere else.
“You can always go away, but you can always come home.”
The couple said they have faith that Cunnamulla has a strong future, and they are putting their money where their mouth is.
Three years ago they purchased the local bakery and now Mr Land, a carpenter by trade, is refurbishing it with his own bare hands.
“I think the town really needs fresh, younger people to get in and have a go at a business in town,” he said.
“It’s a big job but we’re enjoying it.”
And Mr Land said they were not alone.
“Quite a number of people I went to school with have got their own businesses in town — mechanics, earthmoving,” he said.
“Everyone’s started to pick up businesses here and there, and branching out, it’s been pretty good.”
Locals happy to see bakery being refurbished
Mr Land said since he began refurbishing the bakery he had received many positive comments from locals and travellers alike.
“The response has been really good,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of clientele now plus we’ve branched off and we’ve got other clients in other towns, properties that have come on board now, it’s picking up really well.
“We’ve had quite a number of local people say they’re happy about what we’re doing, as well as tourists.
“We get a lot of tourists coming in saying how good it is to see something happening.”
Mr Land said he believed it was vital that young people did their bit to kick start the economy of Cunnamulla.
“I think it’s very important at the moment, it’s a bit hard because of the drought … not a lot of money is circulating,” he said.
“But now that we’re hopefully going into a good season we may start to see things change and money start to move a little bit.”
Thargomindah hooks up with Nebraska to share ideas
Many small towns in outback Queensland are facing similar problems to Cunnamulla as they struggle with the drought and population decline.
The small town of Thargomindah, 200kms west of Cunnamulla, is also looking at ways to reenergise the town.
Bulloo Shire Mayor John ‘Tractor’ Ferguson has signed up to participate in a project to connect with towns in Nebraska.
“We can share ideas, innovations and tourism [strategies] and other ways to stimulate the economy and think outside the square a bit,” he said.
“I think this is going to be pretty exciting for the Bulloo Shire.”
Cr Ferguson said many towns in Nebraska were in a similar boat to Thargomindah.
“They’re sort of in the same situation … with places closing down in the main street,” he said.
“We haven’t gone that far yet but we don’t want to go that far.
“We’ve got to think outside the square now. We’ve still got our rural industries that’s for sure, but there are other things we might be able to do to stimulate our economy and get things working right.”
He said jobs were the key in small bush towns.
“Jobs keep people happy and keep [towns] alive,” he said.
Topics: small-business, drought, population-and-demographics, regional, cunnamulla-4490, thargomindah-4492
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