Dirranbandi, a rural town of about 437 people, is 470 km south-west of Brisbane and midway between St George and the New South Wales border. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal expression associated with frogs in a swamp, although this is disputed.
The town is on the Narran River, a tributary of the Balonne River, downstream from St George, which was explored by the New South Wales Surveyor-General in 1846. Within five years the Dirranbandi district was occupied by the Currawildi pastoral run. In 1885 a town reserve for Dirranbandi was surveyed, above the known flood level of the Balonne. Early buildings included a hotel and general store, but a school was not opened until about 1908.
Dirranbandi and its larger neighbour, St George, lacked ready access to the railway system. By 1908 the south-western railway had been extended to Goondiwindi, and a push for further extension came when New South Wales proceeded with the border extensions designed to draw away interstate freight. An extension from Goondiwindi to Dirranbandi (the terminus) was opened in 1913. The town was transferred to the vicinity of the railway station.
A hospital was built in 1923, a reticulated water supply installed in 1938 and a power house commissioned for town electricity supply. The postwar years saw significant civic improvements: a sewerage scheme, improved electricity supply, an aerodrome and a civic centre built by shire authorities. A high school department was added to the primary school, and a Catholic primary school opened in 1956. By 1960 the population neared 900 people.
Dirranbandi has suffered population decline since the 1960s, but has retained its infrastructure. Today largely a cotton town, the local population swells with seasonal pickers at during harvest. The Dirranbandi Cotton Grower's Association was formed in 1997, 11 years after the first local cotton crop. All cotton is irrigated.
Dirranbandi's commercial centre has a range of shops and rural services, a hotel, motels, and a civic centre. There are also a hospital, a state primary-secondary school, a Catholic primary school, a showground and bowling and golf clubs. The railway service has carried only freight since 1994. In 1989 the Cubbie cattle station on another of the Balonne's tributaries, the Culgoa River, converted to irrigated cotton growing. A gin was installed at Dirranbandi. By 2001, however, complaints grew about the loss of water flow into the Murray-Darling river system, and downstream properties were denied natural flooding for pasture growth. In 2009 Cubbie was put up for sale, entailing debates about its water entitlements. By late 2009 Cubbie had been placed in the hands of administrators.
Dirranbandi's census populations have been:
G.O. Armstrong, In Mitchell's footsteps: a history of the Balonne Shire, Brisbane, W.R. Smith & Paterson, 1968
P. Crothers, Dirranbandi 1885-1985, Toowoomba, Southern Cross Printery, 1985