Prior to 1882, the rainforest was inhabited by Aborigines, physically smaller in stature to the Gulf people and less in number. Explorers Christie Palmerston, Inspector Douglas and H. Oswald were the first Europeans to traverse this section
In 1882, a prospector-bushman Christie Palmerston with Pompo and four other Aboriginals walked 100 km from Mourilyan Harbour, Innisfail (then Geraldton) to the mining town of Herberton in 12 days. Pompo accompanied Palmerston for most of his exploration. When Pompo died at Herberton in 1882, Palmerston was deeply grieved, and had a tombstone erected on Pompo’s grave
Palmerston named the two main branches of the North Johnstone River, the Beatrice and the Katie, after two of his Melbourne friends. The name of the Eastern or main branch was later changed to the North Johnstone throughout its length. Palmerston also named the pyramid shaped peak near Nerada, Mount Theresa (now called Cooroo Peak) and Theresa Creek at Millaa Millaa, after Theresa Rooney who later became his wife. He also named other features… Rosina Creek, Douglas Creek after Inspector Douglas, and Henrietta Creek.
Today you can drive that route in two hours scarcely appreciating the magnitude of that feat. This park and highway following closely the route surveyed by Palmerston commemorate his achievement.
Walking some of the tracks through the 14,200 ha national park you can explore in your own way the rainforest that Palmerston called “jungle“.
Arrival of Selectors
Land selectors from the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales. They walked in from Atherton carrying supplies, brush hooks, axes and crosscut saws. By 1913, only six women lived in the district, the total population about 100. World War 1 had a negative impact on the rate of development of the district.
Arrival of Railway and Timber Cutters
Until the arrival of the railway in December, 1921, Millaa Millaa was a small beef and dairying community but the rail changed that. The magnificent rainforest cabinet timbers, such as maple and oak, became available to the market and the district boomed.
Butter Factory and Dairying
1930 saw the opening of the Millaa Millaa Butter Factory, the steadying influence of the depression, the settling down into a dairying and timber reliant community.
World War 2 brought an expansion in the timber industry and a change of direction for dairying with an emphasis on supply of whole milk in preference to butter.
The 1950’s were mainly prosperous years for the dairy farmers but the timber industry had a few ups and downs, buoyed up somewhat by the development of the Maalan area.
By 1960, the number of farmers was starting to decline as amalgamation of farms took place in an effort to maintain viability in the face of declining soil fertility and increasing off farm costs. By the mid sixties the railway had closed as had Brotherton’s veneer mill. The timber industry had slowed and suppliers to the Butter Factory numbered only 58 by 1971 compared with 130 in 1960 although returns to dairy farmers continued to increase after volume cheese production commenced in 1967. Amalgamation with the Malanda Dairy Association took place in 1973. Rankine’s closed the local sawmill in 1987.
Millaa Millaa now has a population of about 250 people. The industry is predominantly dairy and beef fattening with tourism steadily increasing.