Woothakata Shire (1879-1947) was immediately west of Cairns Shire and the tablelands' shires. It was formed around the Hodgkinson minerals area which was discovered in 1875 by the explorer James Mulligan. Mount Mulligan is near the Hodgkinson River, and it is thought that 'woothakata' was derived from an Aboriginal expression describing the mountain.

Two early towns on the Hodgkinson gold field were Kingsborough and Thornborough, the latter located on the upper reach of the Hodgkinson River, 42 km west of Mareeba. It was settled as a gold town in 1876 and formally surveyed in 1878, at the height of the mining boom. When local government was enacted in 1879 for rural Queensland, Thornborough was chosen as the civic centre for the Woothakata division. Woothakata administered an area of over 27,000 sq miles, including the tin-mining area at Stannary Hills and Irvinebank, which came to prominence in the 1880s. Situated near the Walsh River, 60 km south of Thornborough, this area and its hinterland (4110 sq miles) were severed from Woothakata in 1889 and named Walsh division.

Woothakata division's population declined as mining activity lessened, but recovered in the early 1900s as the pastoral industry intensified. The division was restyled as a shire in 1902. In 1920 the area around Mareeba was added to Woothakata Shire, bringing in better farm and grazing land, along with the tableland railway line.

Woothakata Shire was described in the 1946 Australian Blue Book:

In 1932 Chillagoe Shire (1908) and Walsh Shire returned to Woothakata Shire. Fifteen years later its name was changed to Mareeba Shire; Mareeba had been the shire's headquarters since about 1919.

Woothakata division/shire's census populations were:

Census Date Population
1881 1796
1891 1180
1911 1773
1921 3820
1933 3227
1947 6262

Hodgkinson Minerals Area, Mareeba and Mareeba Shire entries


Copyright © Centre for the Government of Queensland, 2018. All rights reserved.

UQ Logo