Aramac, a rural town, is 530 km west of Rockhampton and 70 km north of Barcaldine, central Queensland. It was the administrative centre of the former Aramac Shire.
William Landsborough explored the Aramac district in 1859 in his first expedition. Discovering a creek, which flowed south-west into the Thomson River, he named it Aramac, after a former pastoralist, Robert Ramsay Mackenzie (hence 'R. R. Mack'), who was also Queensland's first colonial treasurer. Pastoral occupation began in 1862 on the Bowen Downs station on Reedy Creek (north of Aramac) and the Aramac Station (1863).
In 1867 an employee of Aramac Station, John Kingston, opened a bark-hut store at an outlying point on the Aramac Creek. Enlarged two years later to include a hotel, Kingston's settlement was declared a town site in 1869 and surveyed as a town in 1875. It was the region's first town, and the centre of the first local-government division (see Aramac Shire). A post office was opened in 1874, a school in 1878 and a hospital in 1879.
By 1880 the western railway line from Rockhampton was half way to Aramac, and its further westerly extension was surveyed in an almost straight line, in a compromise alignment between Aramac and Blackall. Aramac missed the benefit of the railway, while the new railheads of Barcaldine and Longreach prospered.
From 1885 the Bowen Downs station was progressively partitioned for closer-settlement, and the Aramac township steadily increased in population. Bore water was brought to the surface for reticulated town supply and use in public baths by 1899. In 1903 Aramac was described in the Australian handbook:
Barcaldine's former shire hall (an attractive colonial timber building) was relocated by the council and re-constructed as Aramac's first shire hall in 1913. More famously, the shire financed a narrow gauge railway – the Aramac Tramway – joining the town with Barcaldine. Although well patronised by passengers and freight, throughput was seldom enough to generate good revenues. State assistance was needed after 1930 until the railway's closure in 1975, but the project stood as a celebrated example of local self help. The tramway station in Aramac was re-opened as a museum in 1994, and appears on the Queensland heritage register.
Rural roads absorbed most of the shire's funds until the 1960s, when at last the town's drainage, road surfaces, kerbs and channels were properly constructed. The primary school was extended to include a secondary department in 1965, and sewerage was connected in 1966.
Yet Aramac's population had peaked by the early 1960s. The end of the postwar wool boom and the reserve price scheme, and years of sagging demand for wool all contributed to a halving of the population by the early years of the twenty-first century. Low house prices (average $10,000) contributed to a small population increase in the early 2000s.
Aramac has a hotel, caravan park, local shops, primary-secondary school, Catholic and Uniting churches, and the former shire hall and offices. There are also swimming, bowling and tennis facilities and the Aramac Tramway Museum. A new ambulance station (2008) replaced the facility built in 1956. The 10-bed hospital closed in 2010 and was converted to a 'primary health care centre'.
The annual Harry Redford Cattle Drive begins in Aramac and partly traces the 1870 footsteps of renowned cattle duffer Harry Redford, known as Captain Starlight.
Its census populations have been:
Len Kingston, Aramac 1870 - 1984: a pictorial history, Bundaberg, L. Kingston, 1984
Len Kingston, Notes from a treasured past of Aramac and its people, Bundaberg, L. Kingston, 1981
Anne Smith, This El Dorado of Australia, Aramac Shire, 1994