McKinlay Shire covers 40,728 km2 including four townships – Nelia to the East, McKinlay and Kynuna to the South and Julia Creek as the central town. The Shire is bounded by the Shires of Richmond, Cloncurry, Carpentaria, Winton and Croydon.
McKinlay Shire was named after the great Australian (Scottish born) explorer John McKinlay who undertook the first and greatest transcontinental feat in Australia, travelling from Adelaide to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1861-62. The first settlers to the McKinlay Shire had to be hardy souls, and even today the shire is a place of extraordinary people who can cope with the outback Australian way of life, where community spirit overlooks the hardships of drought and isolation.
The first European settlement in North West Queensland occurred on what is now called Julia Creek – in 1862 just one year after Burke & Wills ill-fated expedition through the area to the north west of the shire when Donald McIntyre took up Dalgonally Station and established his base at Dalgonally waterhole. A monument to Donald McIntyre and his brother Duncan (an explorer who was sent to search for Ludwig Leichardt) can be seen by the gravesite at the Gilliat River on the boundary of Spoonbill and Dalgonally Stations.
The Town of Julia Creek was started in 1890 and was first called ‘Hilton’ until 1907 when the railway line was established and then the town was renamed after McIntyre’s niece, an Aunt Julia Campbell from near Bendigo. Julia Creek was first surveyed in July 1907.
Julia Creek commenced to grow when the railway line was extended in February 1908. The first cattle yards were built to the south of the railway line in 1908, however were relocated 3kms from town in 1960 due to the bad dust problem when loading cattle onto trains.
By 1920 there were four food stores, a chemist, an accountant, a solicitor, a tailor, three garages, three cafes, two hotels, two market gardeners, a blacksmith and a one roomed school.
The first telegraph office was opened in 1908 (railway Station opened in February 1908). The receiving office was elevated to a Post Office at the Railway Station in 1910. It remained at the Railway Station for a number of years until the present day Post Office was officially opened in 1926.
In 1930, McKinlay Shire Council was moved from McKinlay to Julia Creek to give closer attention to improvements in the district’s major town. The first bitumen streets were laid.
1950’s – severe drought and the construction of the powerhouse, the town's electricity supply was first switched on on the 19th October 1952. The modern swimming pool was opened in 1958.
1960’s – sewerage was installed, construction of Civic Centre, fire brigade was established, private doctors surgery was opened, construction of retirement units for older citizens.
1970’s – new railway station built, air conditioned hospital was opened, Flinders Highway was sealed, floods and bushfires threatened area.
1980’s – automatic telephones replaced manual exchange, establishment of Duncan McIntyre Museum to celebrate Bicentenary of Australia. An interesting collection of Shire memorabilia can be found at the McIntyre Museum in Burke Street.
1990’s – closure of high school and Convent school, banks began to leave town.
2000 to today– skate park was opened, medical centre opened, new library and information centre opened, new sports centre was opened, continued development of shire infrastructure to provide greater opportunities for locals and tourists.