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Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health

Julia Creek

600 in the township (approx.)
1200 in the Shire of McKinlay(approx.)

253 km from Mt Isa
651 km from Townsville
1840 km from Brisbane
General Information
The flat downs country around Julia Creek was traditionally a cattle and sheep grazing area. Though Julia Creek still acts as a cattle head for the export of live cattle, mining has taken over as the biggest source of income for the area. Within the shire lies BHP's Cannington mine. This mine is the largest producer of silver from a single mine in the world. Lead and zinc are also found in the same ore body, with yearly production for silver being 22 million ounces, 150 000 tons for lead and 44000 tons of zinc. The Cannington mine was the official supplier for the silver used at the Sydney Olympic Games. The downs country that sits on the Great Artesian Basin acts as an enormous catchment area for the wet season rains. The major rivers that are ribboned across the land include the Flinders, Saxby, Cloncurry and Gilliat Rivers these all flow north carrying nutrients into the Gulf of Carpentaria, the only exception being the Diamantina that flows south emptying into Lake Eyre. The four bores within a 2km radius of the town supply Julia Creeks town water. Water is then pumped into the distinctive "Wineglass" water tower for town use. Julia Creek is home to the rare and endangered Julia Creek Dunnart. The Dunnart is an extremely shy nocturnal hunter with a habitat range approximately 100 km in all directions from Julia Creek. Captive breeding of the Dunnart has shown them to be avid breeders, but the high number for ferial cats in the area has been attributed to there declining numbers in the wild.

Summer time temperatures in Julia Creeks regularly sore into the forties, with little relief from the heat during the night. The summer time average maximum is 38.5oC and the low is 23.5oC. The 463mm of annual rainfall is associated with the summer monsoon from November to March and the high humidity and high temperatures can make life in the area a tad sticky. The short winter brings beautiful cool and dry weather, with daytime temperatures remaining in the mid to low twenties.

Greetings from Julia Creek within the McKinlay Shires. Home of the Dunnart (Sminthopsis Douglasi). This Shire devised its name from John McKinlay, Australian Explorer 1860. Goldring St in the 1920's

Julia Creek has a long and interesting history, both the town and the area. To our knowledge the first Europeans in the area were Duncan and Donald McIntyre. At the age of eleven in 1836 Duncan came to Australia and settled in Victoria. Later in 1851 his brother Donald then aged five, came to this country - by 1862 both men aged sixteen and twenty-two headed north to Queensland bringing with them 10,000 sheep and twenty-five horses. Their route came north along the Darling River, however they ran into bad weather and regulations forced them to sell the sheep. It is believed Duncan followed the trail made by Burke and Wills. However, McIntyre, on his trail from Coopers Creek to the Gulf went further east to the Flinders River, whereas Burke and Wills followed the Cloncurry River and did not travel this area. The township of Julia Creek was named by the McIntyres after a niece and aunt of theirs. The theory that Julia Creek was named by Burke after an actress Julia Matthews was proved to be incorrect, since Burke had been dead eight years and Julia Matthews had moved to America. This fact was taken from the diary of Ernest Henry. Julia Creek was called Hilton and was settled in 1890. Both town and creek names were changed by McIntyre from Hilton to Julia and the creek from Scorpion to Julia Creek. The head waters of this creek is considered to rise on the property of Quambatook.

Julia Creek Dunnart
On McIntyres return from the Gulf, Duncan discovered what was believed to be traces of the ill-fated Leichhardt Expedition of 1848. On arriving back with Donald, both settled on what is known as Dalgonally Station. They explored wide areas around the present site of Julia Creek - The Gilliat Channels named after Mr Gilliat, a person sent from Bowen River to establish Lara Station. Eastern Creek was named as it was the first permanent water east of the Gilliat Channels and flows to McIntyre's waterhole from where the Julia Creek meets the Cloncurry River.

Dalgonally in 1866 had an acreage of 1,177,000 acres, however today has been reduced. From those days other very large properties were established, Lara; Canobie; Millungra; Quambetook; Toorak to name but a few.

Dating back to 1864 when Duncan McIntyre reported his find of two blazed trees and two very old horses. Duncan was commissioned by the Ladies of Melbourne to lead another expedition to the Gulf to search for Leichhardt who had now been missing for sixteen years. 4000 pounds was raised for the expedition up the Cooper. Lack of water and trouble within his men slowed the expedition. However by March 1866 they reach Dalgonally on their way to the Gulf. At Burketown they heard reports of half casts living with aborigines. The ages of the children matched the time when Leichhardt would have been there.

Duncan McIntyre became very ill on his return to Dalgonally, so much so that he died there on the 4th June, 1866. Duncan McIntyre is buried at "The Grave Hole" on the banks of McIntyre Waterhole. His second in command Mr Slowman read the burial service. Later a monumental head stone was erected by the Ladies of Melbourne. This bears a beautiful Celtic Cross above his name. A tree marked his gravesite with "M & V" carved into its wood. This tree stump is now housed in the Duncan McIntyre Museum in Julia Creek.

To quote Mr Slowman I feel he summed up the fine ability of this explorer by saying, "In Mr McIntyre I had every confidence and would have gone anywhere with him. A splendid bushman adept at water finding, an accomplishment the value of which to an explorer cannot be over estimated".

We are very proud of this portion of our history.

This districts' main industries are cattle and sheep and mining at BHP Cannington near McKinlay established in 1997. This mine produces in excess of 22 million ounces of silver, 150,000 tones of lead metal and 44,000 tones of zinc metal each year. BHP Cannington was the official supplier of silver to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

This Shire spans 41,000 square kilometers of outback Queensland and its administration centre is at Julia Creek. Water from the Great Artesian Basin, the first bore was sunk in 1907 on the railway reserve. Now Julia Creek township has five bores making water a valuable plentiful asset. Most properties throughout the Shire have their own bores.

Julia Creek commenced to grow when the railway line was extended in February 1908. Thus eliminating Cobb and Co exchange station at the shanty pub on an old earth dam east of the present Julia Creek Cemetery.

A one-roomed school was built in 1911 with nine pupils in attendance. Up until then children received their lessons from an itinerant teacher at a private residence. A 24 foot x 12 foot galvanized iron room sides and roof was built. Extremely hot and cold temperatures were endured by teacher and pupils. As enrolments increased, a new school was built and playsheds were added. More additions by 1932 and 1934. A separate secondary school was built in 1963 and the original primary school buildings restumped and concreted underneath in 1969. These buildings are still standing and are in good condition.

By the 1930's Julia Creek had a Japanese laundry; three banks; a black-smiths shop; a butcher shop built 1919; three cafes; two hotels; four stores; the one roomed school; ice works; cordial factory; open air picture theatre show built in 1924 and a dance hall built 1930.

The first set of cattle yards was built in 1910 south of the town but very close to the small township. These were shifted west of town since, then to their present site well west of the town in 1968.

By 1930 Julia Creek had three churches and a wool scour "Gunjula" built 1920 terminated 1955.

The Shire Council by proclamation of the Queensland Government Gazette 26th July, 1930 says "The old McKinlay Shire was abolished and a new shire named McKinlay was proclaimed - made up of parts of Cloncurry; McKinlay; Winton and Wyangarie Shires. Mr Allison of McKinlay was Chairman. Julia Creek became the new headquarters. The Shire buildings, offices and residence was moved to Julia Creek from McKinlay in 1932. New Civic Centre and offices were constructed in 1961.

A wooden structured hospital took the place of a bush nurses residence and was built in 1939 to be replaced in 1972 by a sixteen bed brick building as it is today.

Electricity came to Julia creek in 1952 and a grant invitation ball was held at Eckford's Hall on the 19th October, 1952 to celebrate the official switch on by the Hon.C.J. Riordon M.L.A. Minister of Mines and Immigration.

Julia Creek has seen major droughts, fires and floods. The major floods being 1974 which was a absolute disaster for north-western areas and the whole of Queensland. Thousands of head of cattle were swept to the Gulf when the four river systems merged to form a giagantic sea. These being the Cloncurry, Flinders, Norman and Saxby Rivers. Most places lost their complete flocks of sheep while lives were saved from record floods by R.A.A.F. helicopters carrying out rescue operations by lifting people off homestead roofs and food drops for other over a period of seven weeks. Records going back to the 1920's show that records rains and disasters such as this have never occurred before or since.

Julia Creek district has a most interesting local marsupial, the dunnart ! A small nocturnal creature that is a protected species. Other attractions is the McIntyre Museum which houses Shire memorabilia; Combo Waterhole famous billabong in Australia's national song "Waltzing Matilda"; the Matilda Expo in Kynuna near the Blue Heeler Pub and the Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKinlay used in Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee. Important parts of our wartime history are the concrete bunkers west of the township of Julia Creek. These are a reminder of the importance they played in World War II. These buildings, now only one standing served as a wartime navigational aid being directly responsible for saving allied aircraft from destruction and giving pilots information to plot their course. The bunker stations sent out an invisible ray or beam to the aircraft, which showed on the planes instrument panel, an assistance to guide the plane back on course. A reminder today of the assistance served from that little ruin situated close to Julia Creek.
With the sealing of the road from Julia Creek to Normanton completed in 1964 at a cost of 7,700,000 pounds ($15,400,000) Julia Creek became known as "Gateway to the Gulf". Our town and district is situated in the outback of Queensland. Harsh, hot and often dry but holding a fascination only the west can portray.

The great courage of our explorers and our parent pioneers lives on in us who choose to stay in this fascinating part of Australia.
Images and history compiled by Shirley Eckford: Julia Creek Historical Society.

Useful Links
For more information visit the McKinlay Shire Council website.

See also:

Mount Isa Centre for Rural & Remote Health   Funded by the Department of Health & Ageing, Australian Government
Telephone: +61 7 4745 4500  Fax: +61 7 4749 5130   Email: micrrh@jcu.edu.au
Content provided by: various sources.   Authorised By: Pashen, Dennis.