History History

 

On the 29th April 1886, the Divisional Board of Diamantina was formed in Birdsville. The first meeting of the Diamantina Shire Council was held on 13 June 1903, in Bedourie.

Diamantina Shire lies in the region known as the Channel Country in far southwestern Queensland Australia. It covers an area of 95,000 sq km or twice the size of Tasmania or Denmark.

The Channel Country River Systems

The Diamantina and Georgina Rivers, Cooper and Eyre Creeks are the main players of a network of western Queensland Rivers. These three great river systems draw water from an area of 566,000 square kilometres. In the regular dry periods these systems contain numerous waterholes that can vary in depth and length. But after rain, the network links together, stretching out over the floodplain like fingers, hence the name Channel Country.

The explanation for the watercourses being known by different names at different points and for 'rivers' to become 'creeks' lies within the history of the regions exploration.

Sturt encountered the combined channels of the Mulligan and Georgina Rivers in 1845 in South Australia and named then Eyre Creek. In 1876 W.O. Hodgkinson (later Member for Burke) explored the Mulligan within Queensland and named it after the famous Queensland prospector, James Venture Mulligan.

Similar circumstances lead to Cooper Creek named by Sturt in 1845 being called the Thomson and Barcoo Rivers by Kennedy and Gregory respectively.

Landsborough was responsible for naming the Diamantina River after Lady Diamantina Roma Bowen, the wife of the first governor of Queensland but earlier McKinlay had variously called this stream Burke's Creek and Mualler River.

The Georgina was first called the Herbert River by Landsborough but was altered to avoid confusion with the Herbert River in northwest Queensland.

The Shire Towns

The settlements of the remote sparsely populated shire began in the 1880's when the towns of Birdsville, Bedourie and later Betoota were formed to service newly taken up pastoral holdings.

The towns of the Diamantina Shire contain some amazing examples of early settlement in the region. Interpretive panels in Birdsville allow visitors to the area to step back in time as they wander among these relics of a bygone era.

The Explorers

European expeditions began in earnest with the South Australian Government wanting to know what lay in the centre of Australia. The first white party to penetrate the area was lead by Charles Sturt (Sturt Stony Desert) who was attempting to reach the centre of the continent from Menindie NSW. He was forced back by extreme drought and heat in December 1845, but he did discover Eyre Creek, naming it after his friend and fellow explorer Edward John Eyre (Lake Eyre). He also named Cooper Creek after an Adelaide Barrister who later became Chief Justice of South Australia.

Burke and Wills (1860-61) traversed the western edge of the area from South to North but the main result of their expedition was the stimulus to exploration caused by their disappearance, the Burke River, north of Boulia is a memorial of their epic journey.

In 1868, John Costello traced and named Farrar's Creek after Jack Farrar, then Head Stockman on Kyabra Station, Quilpie. He later took up various properties in the Diamantina Shire including: Mt Leonard, Mooraberrie and in 1873 Monkira.

In 1878 W.O. Hodgkinson, who earlier had accompanied McKinlay was sent by the then Queensland Governor to explore the western edge of the region, he traced the Mulligan River and discovered the Toko Range.

In 1883, Surveyor Augustus Poeppel started the Queensland-Northern Territory Boundary Survey. Poeppel Corner is now a well-known landmark cornering three states and territories.

Birdsville was proclaimed a town in 1887 and reserve for the township of Bedourie was gazetted in 1888. The reserve for Betoota was gazetted in 1889.

The Aboriginals

There was little contact between Europeans and the Desert Peoples, Wangkangurru and Wangkamadla before that time. It seemed people living in the Desert were protected by their environment from direct impact and it wasn't until the big drought of 1899-1900 that direct contact was made and the Desert Peoples moved into the towns. Many descendents of these people still live in the area and are proud of their heritage.

In 1876 property owner, Patrick Drinan took up Annadale Station on the Mulligan River while in the same year Robert Frew took up Pandie Pandie on the lower Diamantina River. Glengyle and Roseberth were also taken up in the same year with Sandringham, Cacoory and Haddon Downs in 1877. Dubbo Downs in 1878 with John Costello taking up country at the eastern edge of this area, Monkira, Mount Leonard, Cluny and Coorabulka were other early holdings.

Many of the 14 stations in the Shire have descendents of the early settlers working them, one being the Kidman Company founded by Sir Sydney Kidman, known as the Cattle King and the area is still regarded as the best fattening area in Australia.