History of Chinchilla

Our area was first discovered by explorer Ludwig Leichhardt on his 1844 expeditions, however, it wasn’t until 1846 when he passed through again that he named Charley’s Creek and took up camp here with his party. The reliable supply of water that Charley’s Creek provided (named in honour of Leichhardt’s Aboriginal guide – Charley Fisher) prompted the development of the first white settlement in the Chinchilla District. One of the first slab huts to be built and occupied on Chinchilla Station (Wongongerra Cottage) now stands proudly at the Chinchilla Historical Museum.

A succession of good seasons from the 1850s through to the early 1860s enticed landholders to take-up properties adjoining Chinchilla Station and the number of settlers in the area grew. When bullock wagons could no longer provide reliable transport of goods and produce, the settlement looked to the railway. Owing to their short bridge crossings and ample water supply, Charley’s Creek and Rocky’s Creek were deemed the preferred route and, in 1876, construction of the Dalby to Roma railway line had begun.

By 1877, a lawless shanty town of tents and pubs had sprung up along Charley’s Creek, which would later become known as Chinchilla. It is believed that the town name comes from the Aboriginal word ‘Jinchilla’ which means Cyprus Pine, a fresh scented termite resistant timber that grows on the Western Downs.

1883 saw the establishment of the Chinchilla State School.

By the early 1900s, the settlement had made progress, with job options now including tree clearing and prickly pear selections.

After WWI the public hospital was built, along with the convent school and the soldier’s memorial hall.

1963 saw the construction of the Chinchilla State High School.

1974 saw town water being addressed.

1999 saw the fabulous refurbishment of the Chinchilla Cultural Centre, which now includes the Ironbark Theatre (a real cinema), the White Gums Art Gallery, and a library any town would be proud of.

2007 introduced the Kogan Creek Power Station, generating a surge in jobs; a huge growth in residential and industrial properties; and an influx of people to the town.

2010 – 2011 saw Chinchilla devastated by floods – not once but twice within two weeks! This caused the evacuation of 70 houses and businesses.

The Club Hotel during the 2010-11 Chinchilla Floods

Agriculture is still the mainstay of the community, with beef and pork production, cotton and wool growing, and horticulture traditionally underwriting the local economy.

Present day Chinchilla is a vibrant and thriving community in the heart of the Western Downs with great schools, an expanding retail sector and a diverse range of services and facilities. We are world renowned for our Melon Festival, which is held every second February and pays homage to one of our life-sources, the delicious watermelon. This quirky, fun, and family-friendly festival really captures our strong community spirit and attracts visitors from all over the globe.

For further in-depth information on Chinchilla’s history, we encourage you to visit the Chinchilla Historical Museum. Within the museum you will find a collection of non-working 1910 sawmills, steam engines, ancient vehicles, period costumes and historical relics. Buildings within the museum include the Goombi Hall, the Emmerson Building, Wongongerra Cottage, the old Blacksmith Shop and the Old Jail.