Doco on outback air kingwas gathering dust on shelf

Headshot of Elise Van Aken
Elise Van AkenThe Kimberley Echo
Slingair founder Kerry Slingsby in 2008.
Camera IconSlingair founder Kerry Slingsby in 2008. Credit: Supplied

Many Kimberley folk know Kerry Slingsbyor at least know of him, a legendary King of the Outback Skies.

The founder of Kununurra’s own Slingair, now Aviar and Helispirit, was the focus of a documentary of the same name which aired in 1998.

The show has since sat, unavailable, because of copyright laws, on a dusty shelf in Canberra at the national Film and Sound Archive of Australia until October when the founder of the Ringers from the Top End website, Simon Cheatham, made it publicly available.

“After a nine-month journey of tracking down and talking to the producer and director, navigating through lawyers to find the rightful owners, then successfully getting copyright approval from Prime Media Group, I was able to have the footage released for public viewing for the first time in almost 20 years,” he said.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


The Sydney-based manager of the RFTTE cattle station employment agency wanted to share the 21-year-old documentary before it faded away.

The documentary is filled with classic larrikin humour set on a backdrop of the Kimberley landscape, telling the story of Kerry Slingsby and his cattle and tourist-mustering team.

Mr Slingsby went from working in a cattleyard to managing one of the biggest aviation businesses in Australia.

His life story is interwoven with the history of the region and of both of the industries he helped shape, in which the narrator matter-of-factly describes Kununurra before its potential was realised.

“When Kerry first came to Kununurra 23 years ago it was just a one-horse town,” he said.

“Its tourism potential wasn’t even imagined by those who first lived there.

“For the people from the cattle stations it was the place to party.”

Pat and Kerry Slingsby in 2011.
Camera IconPat and Kerry Slingsby in 2011. Credit: Olivia Day

Mr Slingsby and his wife Pat, who also features in the documentary, have since sold their businesses and retired, moving to Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory two years ago.

Speaking to The Kimberley Echo, Mr Slingsby said Kununurra would always be a special place for him.

“We still go back ... our family and some of our kids are still there,” he said.

“It will always be a very special place in our lives.

“I try to stay away from any attention though ... it doesn’t worry me.”

The full documentary can be viewed at prime7.com.au/news/12077-king-of-the-outback-skies

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails