Wondai, a rural town of about 1400 people, is 25 km north of Kingaroy and 170 km north-west of Brisbane.
Wondai, and more particularly its shire, was taken up as the Mondure pastoral run (1844) and the Boondooma run (1846). The Boondooma homestead site, west of Wondai on the Mundubbera-Durong Road, consists of sandstone and slab buildings dating from 1856, along with barns, sheds and yards. It is a remarkably intact nineteenth century farm complex which is listed on the Australian heritage register and has been brought under the care of the Wondai Shire Council.
Wondai itself came about with the resumption of part of the Mondure pastoral leasehold and the southwards extension of the railway from Goomeri. A town, named Dingo Creek, was surveyed around the temporary halt in the railway in 1903, and within a short time was renamed Wondai, an Aboriginal word thought to describe the dingo. In 1905 a school was opened. Growth of the town was rapid, reaching about 800 in 1910, when the Wondai Times was first published and local agitation succeeded in forming the Wienholt Shire by severances from Kilkivan, Nanango, Rawbelle and Wambo Shires. Wondai was the administrative centre and the shire was renamed after the town in 1914. At the same time Murgon shire was severed from it.
Wondai's first annual show was held in 1911 and a hospital was opened in 1915. Agriculture diversified beyond sheep and beef cattle, with dairying, cotton and other crops. The Wondai dairy association agitated throughout the 1920s for separation from the Kingaroy and Murgon processing factories, and a butter factory was opened at Wondai in 1931. Culturally, the town expanded, with a new school of arts and memorial hall (1928) and an art deco inspired shire offices and hall (1940). Secondary industries included a brick and tile works, furniture and joinery works and butter and cheese factories. In the 1980s the shire sought additional town development with the creation of an industrial estate, following on the provision of low-cost residential land allotments and the building of a retirement village. A high school was opened in 1976 and a new hospital was opened in 1986.
Wondai Shire's population fell in the 1960s-70s, reflecting the decline in dairying and the closure of the town's butter factory. The loss was only slightly reflected in the town's population, and it picked up in the 1980s. In addition to the facilities already mentioned, Wondai has a local shopping centre (including Boisen's drapery, dating almost from Wondai's origins), a showground and racecourse, golf, bowling and swimming venues, a heritage museum, a tourist information centre, three hotels and two motels. The Wondai Times was absorbed by the region's South Burnett Times in 1921.
Wondai's census populations have been:
Tony Matthews, Landscapes of change: a history of the South Burnett, Wondai, Burnett Local Government Association, 1997