North Queensland heritage

This is a database of rural infrastructure in North Queensland. It includes the location of structures such as yards, wells and bores, and of homesteads and stock routes. Complementary information on roads and land tenure is also contained in the database.

Rural infrastructure is an important cultural heritage that reflects the history of the cattle industry and the evolution of the North Queensland landscape from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.

As a material culture, largely consisting of wooden yard, fence and bore structures, sites are disappearing from the landscape in bushfires; or, through abandonment as the ways in which the cattle industry operates have changed over time. Where sites have survived their names may be forgotten. Other locations retain their name, even though the original site has disappeared.

Toponymy, the geography of placenames, is a valuable feature of outback landscapes for those people who live in them, even though their locations may now no longer have any economic role.

Place names provide spatial referents for orientation in the landscape and in the mind. They can be used to describe personal, family and community histories, and for imparting knowledge about the properties of former and present-day landscapes. There are vast outback landscapes in North Queensland which appear to be ‘empty’ but which in fact are intensely humanised by place names.

This database is compiled largely from 1:250 000 scale GIS datasets that are provided for public use by the Australian and Queensland governments . It is not exhaustive. Newly identified sites, as well as the (forgotten or newly acquired) names of current ones, continue to be added to it.

So far, the database has been used to to record or update the name and location of cattle yards and watering points in the lower Mitchell River valley, and to elicit information on past and present uses of these sites from local people .

Currently, the database is being used to model seasonal stock movement in the Upper Gulf Country between Kowanyama and Normanton and surrounding cattle stations. This model also provides an ‘aide memoire’ for aged stock workers to use to describe the country they worked in and their lifestyles there when they were young men and women in the 1960s and 1970s.