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Mount Isa Centre for Rural & Remote Health
 PO Box 2572
 100, Joan Street
 Mount Isa QLD 4825
 Tel: (07) 4745 4500
 Fax: (07) 4749 5130
 E-mail: micrrh@jcu.edu.au


 

 

For information regarding tours of Mount Isa and surrounding regions, please visit Mount Isa Viitor Information Centre, located at Outback at Isa.


Mount Isa

Population

1996 Census 22,866

General Information

Mount Isa, known affectionately by the locals as "The Isa", is the oasis of the Outback. Once a raw mining city, it is now a bustling commercial centre, the heart of the rugged expanse of North-West Queensland. Mount Isa is recognised as one of the world's largest local government areas, with almost 41,000sq km being included in the city's boundaries. Set on the banks of the Leichardt River, the city is a green oasis, with lovely gardens and parks striking a dramatic contrast to the surrounding rugged red landscape. The massive chimneys of the Mount Isa Mines (MIM) complex dominate the cityscape and reinforce the fact that Mount Isa owes its very existence to the rich ore bodies that the town is built on. The climate of The Isa is as dramatic as the landscape. Winters bring cool dry nights and 26-degree days, with vivid blue skies. Summer however brings erratic flooding rains and temperatures that soar into the forties, with nights remaining in the mid to high twenties. Life though is still pleasant as most of the town's facilities are air-conditioned allowing life to go on as usual.

Location

200 km to the Northern Territory Boarder along the Barkly Highway,
904 km form Townsville, 1829 km from Brisbane

Climate

During the summer months Mount Isa has two types of weather, Hot and Wet, and Hot and Dry. It is usually the latter. The Isa averages 9.5 hours of sunshine a day and the annual rainfall of 437 mm tumbles down in the 50 wet days a year. Summer night-time temperatures rarely fall below the mid-twenties, while the daytime temperatures climb regularly towards the forties. The winter dry season will usually find the skies painted a brilliant blue, accompanying daytime temperatures in the mid-twenties and mild nights averaging 12.5 oC.

History

The land around the present day city of Mount Isa was home to the Kalkadoon aboriginal tribe. The Kalkadoon tribe led a subsistence lifestyle on this land that the white settlers looked at as nothing but poor grazing land, with the odd mineral deposit. As settlers and prospectors pressed further into their lands the Kalkadoon tribe members set out on one of Australia's most successful guerrilla wars in a fight for their lands. Their success continued until at Battle Mountain in 1884, with what some historians have called call a rush of blood, the tribe attacked a fortified position in large numbers and suffered terrible losses. The weakened state of the tribe made their land more vulnerable to the settlers and soon much of the land was lost. Armed patrols chasing the surviving tribe members and poor grazing lands for the settlers made times hard in the area over the following decades.

The lone gold prospector John Campbell Miles stumbled upon one of the world's richest deposits of copper, silver and zinc upon during his 1923 expedition into the Northern Territory. While camping on the banks of the Leichardt River, Miles found the yellow-black rocks in a nearby outcrop reminded him of the ore found in the Broken Hill mine that he had once worked at. Upon inspection these rocks were weighty and heavily mineralised. A sample sent away to the assayer in Cloncurry confirmed that Miles had hit the jackpot. He and four farmers turned miners staked out the first claims in the area. Taken with friend stories of the Mount Ida gold mines in Western Australia, Miles decided upon Mount Isa as the name for his new claim.

The physical isolation, blistering temperatures and lack of access to supplies and water made the early years tough by any standard. This did not stop Miles and his partner Bill Simpson gouging some 45 tones of ore out of their lease before selling up to the newly formed Mount Isa Mines company in 1924. A lack of funds, poor ore grade, the isolation, and depressed prices saw the Mount Isa Mines (MIM) get off to a shaky start. It was men like W. H. Corbould whose belief in the mine, led to its ultimate greatness.

Like many outback towns Mt Isa built an airport before it built a railway station. QANTAS began commercial passenger services in 1922, with services to the Isa starting up in 1925 (Visit the History pages at the Qantas homepage for more information). The rail line arrived in 1929, opening markets and making mining more viable. In 1928 the medical isolation for the people of the district was reduced with the establishment of the Royal Flying Doctors Service in Cloncurry. This base along with the School of the Air that shared its facilities since 1960 was transferred to Mount Isa in 1965, where it has remained open ever since. The Mount Isa School of the Air caters for approximately 240 students from Preschool to Year 10 in an 800 000 square kilometre catchment area.

During World War 2 the Isa was on the convoy route from Townsville to Darwin and acted as a large logistical base. The bombing of Darwin by the Japanese spurred the locals into voluntarily building what is believed to be Australia's only underground hospital. The remains of this hospital can still be found dug into the hill behind the present day Mount Isa Base Hospital. Efforts have begun to restore the underground hospital to working order for its tourist and historical potential. The under ground hospital is one of many sites of the "historical landmarks walks" that can be obtained from the Riversleigh Fossil Interpretative Centre.

Transport

Mt Isa is a two-hour flight from Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville. Macair Airlines, Ansett Airlines and its subsidiary Flight West fly daily from these ports, with local aircraft and helicopter charter companies servicing the towns in the surrounding district. McCafferty's and Greyhound Pioneer have daily bus services to Townsville, Darwin and Alice Springs. The roads to the coast and the Northern Territory and to the majority of the major towns in the district are sealed, though subject to flooding in the wet season. Queensland Rail operates the Inlander rail service departing from Townsville twice a week. The city has a taxi service and many car hire companies for travel with in Mt Isa. The Mount Isa Irish Association and the Carpentaria Buffalo Club both run free courtesy buses for patrons of their facilities.

Tourism, Leisure and Cultural Activities

Lawn Hill Gorge. In 1985 the 12282 hectares surrounding the Lawn Hill Gorge system was declared a National Park. The gorge is an emerald oasis in the semiarid Gulf Savannah region. A remnant of the ancient rainforest that covered the region millions of years ago, the park is a treasure trove of unique Australian flora species. Permanent springs and wet season rains that spill over 60 metre sandstone cliffs keep the gorge filled with deep crystal clear water year round. This permanent water has sustained lush flora and the indigenous population for thousands of years, with evidence of continual Aboriginal dwelling dating back over 35000 years.

Kalkadoon Tribal Council Meeting Place

Located next to the Riversleigh fossil centre, the Kalkadoon Tribal Council Meeting Place, show cases the artwork and artefacts of the Kalkadoon people. The Meeting Place runs organised tours to Aboriginal art sites, takes tourist on bush tucker trips and showcases and sell local Aboriginal art. Come an meet some of the traditional land owners and listen to some of there fascinating stories and history.

World Heritage Listed Riversleigh Fossil Area

In 1992 the Riversleigh cattle station, located 75km south of Lawn Hill, was added as an extension to the Lawn Hill National Park. The flora and fauna found on the station was not the reason for the stations inclusion in the park, instead it was for the extensive vertebrate fossil deposits. The Riversleigh deposits are some of the richest vertebrate deposits in the world and are responsible for over half the known Australian mammal species in the last 30 million years. Incredibly a quarter of Australia's known mammal species were recovered from the Riversleigh site in just one hour. Terrestrial animal fossils are very rare due to rapid decomposition after the animal's death. Few places on the planet have provided conditions favourable to the fossilisation of land creatures. For this reason Riversleigh was listed by the World Heritage Society in December 1994.

Riversleigh Fossil Centre

The Riversleigh Fossils Interpretive Centre (Link to own page) was built to showcase the incredible fossils discovered at the Riversleigh Station, 250 km north west of Mt Isa. This centre is the main tourist information centre for Mt Isa and is the departure for most of the town's tour operators.

Rodeo

Mt Isa's biggest event is the annual Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo held over three days on the second weekend in August. The Isa rodeo is the biggest and the richest rodeo in Australia and is on the international circuit and second only to Calgary in prise money. The inaugural Mount Isa rodeo was held in 1959 and offered a prise pool of 500. This has grown to over $200,000 in the year 2000. The rodeo Mardi Gras through the streets of the town attracts crowds of up to 10,000 to view floats representing city businesses, clubs, organizations and events.

Gregory River Canoe Race

Every year the small town of Gregory located 300km north of Mt Isa hold a 42km canoe race. This race attracts large numbers of entrants. Some are serious most are not. Either way it is an event worth watching.

Lake Julius/Moondarra

These two man-made lakes are beautiful wildlife sanctuaries and popular leisure and water sport venues for the people of Mt Isa. Lake Moondarra is located 15.5 km north of Mt Isa and the sealed access road makes the lakes picnic grounds and boat ramps accessible to normal road vehicles. The 111,370 ha lake is the cities main water supply and is stocked with fish, such as Barramundi, by the local fishing club. Lake Julius is located 25 km west of the town of Kajabbi and the road is recommended to be travelled only by high ground clearance vehicles during dry conditions. Due to its isolation, Lake Julius is more popular as a weekend get away spot, offering a recreational camp and accommodation

 

Night Spots

Mt Isa has one of Australia's youngest populations combined with one of Australia's highest average wages. These factors have more than helped in making sure that the Isa has a legendary nightlife. Clubs such as the Irish and the Buffs have free courtesy buses for patrons and are definitely worth visiting, especially if you are feeling the need for a cappuccino and slice of cake. There are two nightclubs in town, "Switches" on Miles St and the newly opened "Rish" in the Irish Club. Both are comparable to clubs in Brisbane and are busy most nights. You will find that the many Clubs, Pubs and Hotels in town are more than happy to assist any visitors to town in have a good time. The Mt Isa Hospital Social Club is also infamous for showing hospital staff and students a good time. Membership runs at $2 a week and can be obtained from a Social Club Management Committee Member. Most hospital staff will be able to point you to your nearest committee member.

City Civic Centre and Library

The town Civic Centre regularly hosts visiting artist, seminars and conferences in air-conditioned comfort. The Library has an extensive array of fiction and non-fiction books, as well as offering computers for word processing and free Internet access.

3-cinema complex

Screens the latest movie releases. Movie screening times are available on 4743 2043.

Video Stores

Latest release videos are available through the video stores in town. These include Civic Video and Video Easy.

Shopping

As the Isa is a regional centre, most of the retail services that you would expect to find in the City can be found in Mt Isa. These include K Mart plaza, Coles, Woolworths, McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster, Pizza Hut, Eagle Boys, many clothing stores, and restaurants including Chinese, Mexican, German, Indian and Ethiopian.

Economy

MIM is the world's largest producer of silver and lead and in the top ten for copper and zinc production. More than half the town works directly or indirectly for the mining industry. The shops, schools, hospital, transport industry and tourism play a part in the town's economy, but the mine is considered the lifeblood of the town.

Facilities

Schools

One private (Catholic) and two State High Schools, ten primary schools (including four private- two Catholic, Assembly of God and Mt Isa Christian College) and a special school provide a full range of services for children and students. There are also three registered childcare centres located in town. Mt Isa also has a TAFE College and the Mount Isa Group Apprenticeship, Training and Employment for further education.

Internet

The City Library offers free Internet access and the Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Buffs Club and Mt Isa Newsagency have public access points. Personal Internet service providers available in town include Telstra Big Pond, Topend/Eisa, Matilda and TGPIP.

Banks

Include Westpac, ANZ, National, Suncorp Metway, First Australian Building Society and the Queensland Country Credit Union.

Accommodation

There are over 25 places providing accommodation in Mt Isa, ranging from the six local caravan parks, up to the four star Mercure Hotel. If renting, expect to pay around $150-$170 per week for a two bedroom furnished flat and $160-$250 per week for an unfurnished house. This is reflective of the high average wages and the relatively low percentage of houses that are owner occupied, due to the population being fairly transient.

Sport and Recreation

Facilities include Golf, Tennis, Bowls, Shooting, Canoeing, Archery and Martial Arts Clubs, as well as Bike tracks, Ten Pin Lanes, Football, Soccer, Hockey and Cricket Ovals, two indoor sporting facilities, squash courts and Two gyms to name a few. Add to that activities such as Skiing on the lakes, Abseiling and Caving in the National Parks, Horse Racing and Irish Dancing and it is highly probable that you will find your favourite sport in Mt Isa

Media

TV

Imparja (Broadcasts from the NT and is syndicated with 9 and 10), SBS, Seven and the ABC.

Radio

Hot FM/4LM, Mob FM, JJJ/ABC, Radio National

Print

The North West Star, daily deliveries of The Courier-Mail, Townsville Bulletin, The Australian and Financial Review.