In 1927 the township of Yaraka, at the end of a central Queensland railway spur line, had a population of 80, devoted largely to the sheep industry.
A few years ago, thanks to the line’s closure and the loss of sheep from the economy, that had dwindled to 12, but media attention and some well-directed promotion is all it has taken for the tiny town’s charms to be noticed by an ever-growing audience.
The population is now up to 24 and if anyone was willing to build new houses, they’d be filled in no time.
That’s the opinion of local publicans and community champions Chris and Gerry Gimblett, themselves newish residents.
The town first came to their attention in 1986 when Gerry was posted there as principal of the one-teacher school.
The community support she experienced then, combined with breath-taking scenery and tons of tranquility, are what brought her back when it was time to re-evaluate their lives.
“Our human interest story, aired on television, was really the catalyst for everything,” Gerry said.
“Everything” is a huge increase in tourist visitation, and services developed in the community to cater to that.
“It’s a very diverse range of people,” said Gerry. “Everyone from professors of law, to private flying clubs dropping in for lunch, to A Van clubs looking for new experiences.
“Then word of mouth kicks in. Once bitten, the place stays in your heart.
Once bitten, the place stays in your heart.
“We’ve been back here for two years and four months and we’re getting people making their fourth or fifth visit.”
They are now encouraging locals to take advantage of the growing tourism market by sharing their lifestyle, and it’s a message that Gerry will be sharing when she joins the Grow Queensland panel in Blackall this week.
Community support is the magic ingredient that kept Yaraka alive through recent tough years – it fought tooth and nail to retain its school building in town once the education service was closed down in 2009, and so they’re now able to offer supervised lessons for the three current local students.
It means there is still infrastructure available to build upon as the tourism boom takes hold.
The picture would be completed with fully sealed road links, fences to control wild dogs to get sheep back in the landscape, and modern communications such as mobile phones.