The Southern Downs is a vast inland area of rural Queensland encompassing the central section of Queensland to the west of the Great Dividing Range. The eastern section of this region is often referred to as the Golden West but is better known to many as the Darling Downs, one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. Major highways traverse the whole of the whole region, allowing easy access to a most scenic part of inland Queensland. Attractions include numerous museums in the area that preserve the heritage of the pioneers. Activities are plentiful, with bushwalkers, horse riders and fishing enthusiasts particularly well catered for.
The region has developed a strong and diverse agricultural industry largely due to the extensive areas of vertosols (cracking clay soils), particularly black vertosols, of moderate to high fertility and available water capacity. Manufacturing and mining, particularly coal mining are also important, and coal seam gas extraction experienced significant growth in the decade to 2016.
The landscape is dominated by rolling hills covered by pastures of many different species, vegetables, legumes such as soy beans and chick peas, and other crops including cotton, wheat, barley and sorghum. Between the farmlands there are long stretches of crisscrossing roads, bushy ridges, winding creeks and herds of cattle. There are farms with beef and dairy cattle, pigs, sheep and lamb stock. Other typical sights include irrigation systems, windmills serving as water well pumps to get water from the Great Artesian Basin, light planes crop-dusting, rusty old woolsheds and other scattered remnants from a bygone era of early exploration and settlement.
The majority of the Darling Downs has a humid subtropical climate although some areas experience a semi-arid or subtropical highland climate. Summer maximum temperatures range from 28 degrees C to 34 degrees C, while winter maximums range from 13 degrees C to 19 degrees C. The annual rainfall ranges from 500 mm in the far west of the region, to 1,000 mm in the east. In the south-east of the Darling Downs winter temperatures can drop below "5 degrees C with heavy frost and occasional snow, while in the north-west summer temperatures can surpass 45 degrees C. Severe thunderstorms and damaging floods are a threat at times, as are bushfires in dry years.
Before European settlement many areas on the Darling Downs were fertile wilderness. For example, around Ma Ma Creek, rich swampy wetlands provided a haven for many animal species not currently found on the downs. The Darling Downs hopping mouse and paradise parrot have both become extinct since cattle farming begun.
The Granite Belt, to the immediate north of the New South Wales Border to the west of the Great Dividing Range, is distinguished by its elevation, which makes it the coolest part of Queensland. This, and its relatively low rainfall, has made it attractive for viticulture. The area is a popular tourist destination, particularly as a short break destination for the peoples of Southeast Queensland/Northern New South Wales. The boom in wine tourism has been a key driver and while winter is popular, the region benefits from being a cool contrast to coastal humidity in the summer.
The cool high country of the granite belt stretches south into the New England Tablelands of New South Wales. The area gains its name from the predominantly granite rocks that distinguish it and is also known for its spectacular flowers and fruit orchards.
The Scenic Rim, an arc of spectacular mountains lying from south of Beaudesert, around to the area south west of Ipswich, is known for it s splendour throughout Australia, and even the rest of the world. There are some magnificent National Parks in the region for the avid nature lover, two of which are World Heritage listed. These include Mt Barney National Park; Main Range National Park; Moogerah Peaks National Park which is made up in four sections eg: Mt French; Mt Greville. Mt Edwards and Mt Moon.
Central West Queensland is a remote region covering an area of 396 650.2 km2, it typifies the common image of outback Queensland. Within this region lies the eastern extent of the Simpson Desert lies within the region, the Channel Country and part of the Cooper Basin. This basin contains the most significant on-shore petroleum and natural gas deposits in Australia. Haddon Corner and Poeppel Corner on the Queensland border are also located here.
Major towns of Central West Queensland include Longreach, Winton, Blackall and Barcaldine. Barcaldine was the location for the 1891 Australian shearers strike, one of Australia s earliest and most important industrial disputes. The Australian Stockman s Hall of Fame is a museum located in Longreach which pays tribute to pioneers of the Australian outback. The ghost town of Betoota has been designated as Australia s smallest town.
Waterways coursing through Central West Queensland include the Barcoo River, Georgina River, Diamantina River, Thomson River, Burke River, Hamilton River and Cooper Creek.
A number of national parks have been declared in the region, including Simpson Desert National Park, Cudmore National Park, Diamantina National Park, Astrebla Downs National Park, Welford National Park, Goneaway National Park, Lochern National Park and Bladensburg National Park.
South West Queensland
A remote region, South West Queensland is noted for its cattle grazing, cotton farming, opal mining and oil and gas deposits.
The northern extent of the Sturt Stony Desert lies within the region around the location known as Cameron Corner. Part of the Cooper Basin is located in the region. The basin contains the most significant on-shore petroleum and natural gas deposits in Australia. The Tookoonooka crater is a large impact crater located in the region, however it is not visible at the surface.
Major towns of South West Queensland include Charleville, Roma, Augathella, Windorah, Thargomindah, St George and Cunnamulla. Cunnamulla has the biggest wool-loading station on the Queensland railway network. Australia s largest cotton farm, Cubbie Station near St George, covers 93,000 hectares.
Waterways coursing through South West Queensland include the Warrego, Maranoa, Merivale, Balonne and its tributary the Bokhara River, Culgoa, Wilson and Cooper Creek. The Balonne is used for an extensive irrigation network. The Bulloo River system is the only closed river system in Australia.
Brief History of The Downs
The Darling Downs Aborigines had an annual burning season at the time when the indigenous grasses were ripe and dry. The annual fires gave the local Aborigines of the Darling Downs the name "Goonneeburra" or "Fire Blacks" - "goonnee" being a name for fire and "burra" a generic word for the whole race. This is what the Downs tribes were known as to the coastal Aborigines who inhabited the Moreton Bay area. Murri is a wider-spread generic word meaning the whole race but in the Kamabroi dialect. The Downs tribes spoke one common dialect, called Waccah and so to all other surrounding tribes were known as the Wacca-burra. The Goonnee-burra were once situated where Warwick stands today. Goonnee meant "the ones who hunt with fire".
Allan Cunningham set out to explore the area to the west of Moreton Bay in 1827, crossing to the west of the Great Dividing Range from the Hunter Region and travelling north. In June 1827, Cunningham climbed to the top of Mount Dumaresque (near what is now Clintonvale close to Maryvale) and after wrote in his diary that this lush area was ideal for settlement. Exploring around Mount Dumaresque, Cunningham found a pass, now known as Cunninghams Gap. Cunningham returned to Moreton Bay in 1828 and with Charles Fraser charted the route through the pass to the Darling Downs. Ludwig Leichhardt in 1844 saw the remains of a camp showing the signs of white men through ridge poles and steel axes.
News of the lush pastures quickly spread resulting in a land grab that authorities in the distant New South Wales colony found difficult to stop. Patrick Leslie was the first person to settle on the Darling Downs in 1840, establishing a sheep property at Canning Downs on the Condamine River in 1846. Other well-established residences on the southern downs include Glengallan Homestead, Talgai Homestead, Pringle Cottage and Rosenthal Homestead. One of the first stations to be established was Jimbour House. It was also the point where Leichhardt launched his expedition to the Northern Territory in 1844.
By 1844 there 26 properties including a number of sheep stations with more than 150,000 head. Local aboriginals and European squatters co-settled the area from the late 1840s onwards.
In 1854, Charles Douglas Eastaughffe settled in the area. Spicers Gap Road opened up the area in the 1850s. Later the expansion of Queensland Rail's train networks and Cobb and Co's stagecoach transport greatly assisted access to the region. Gold was found in the district around this time, however it was agricultural activity that provided for the boom times ahead.
During the early 20th century dairy was a significant industry for Queensland. The 1930s saw the peaking of the dairy industry on the Downs with 6,500 farms and over 200,000 milking cows. The Downs Co-operative Dairy Association expanded, constructed or purchased at least 10 butter and cheese factories across the Darling Downs. The Downs Co-operative Dairy Association Limited Factory in Toowoomba remain in operation today.
The Queensland Gas Pipeline oil pipeline and the Roma to Brisbane Pipeline, Australia's first natural gas pipeline both cross the region from west to east. There are two coal mines, New Acland Mine and Cameby Downs coal mine and a number of power stations situated on the Downs, including the Millmerran Power Station, Oakey Power Station, Darling Downs Power Station and the Kogan Creek Power Station. The Dingo Fence starts at the town of Jimbour across the country to the Great Australian Bight. Mining exploration leases cover more than 90% of the Darling Downs.
After agriculture and mining, manufacturing is the next most important sector. Manufacturing focuses on food and beverages but also the production of machinery, equipment and metal products. <
Steele Rudd (Arthur Davis) wrote a series of comic novels on rural life, starting with On Our Selection (1899), about Dad, Mother and Dave Rudd of Snake Gully. The Rudds had four (or six) acres adjoining a sheep run in Darling Downs. The stories were made into films and a radio series.