While there was European settlement in the area in the mid 1800s, the town of Murgon wasn’t established until the early 1900s. It began as a railway town, enabling a timber industry to develop, with dairying not far behind. Today it services the surrounding farming community, which includes beef production, olive groves and vineyards. Murgon has also kept a connection with its Indigenous history, with the settlement of Cherbourg not far away and a strong Indigenous presence among the town’s population.
Murgon is close to one of the most significant fossil sites in Australia. The area has yielded many specimens of vertebrate fauna from around 55 million years ago.
- Population – 2,378
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander percentage of population – 18.8%
- Closest major town/city – Kingaroy (45 km)
- Distance from airport – 169 km (Sunshine Coast); 257 km (Brisbane)
- Cinemas – 0
- Cafes/restaurants – 9
- Pubs/bars – 2
- Primary schools – 2
- Secondary schools – 1
- Tertiary education providers – 0
- Annual average maximum temperature – 25.8°C
- Annual average minimum temperature – 11.3°C
Sitting in a hilly, forested area north of Kingaroy in the South Burnett region, Murgon is located on the Bunya Highway (Route 49). Lake Barambah, a man-made lake to the town’s south, is a popular recreation area and supplies the town’s water.
Overall, Murgon’s population is relatively old, with almost a quarter aged 65 and over. This is almost 10 percent more than the statewide figure, and there is also a high number of widowed in the population. While the number of children in the town is similar to other parts of Queensland, there are fewer young adults.
Almost 81 percent of the townspeople were born in Australia, including close to 19 percent who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. Many of these are from a wide variety of communities that were forcibly settled in nearby Cherbourg in the early 1900s.
The healthcare needs of Murgon’s residents are provided by Murgon Family Medical Practice. While it is the town’s only medical clinic, it has around 10 doctors with skills in many areas of medicine and also hosts a range of visiting services including podiatry, psychology and sleep health. The Murgon Hospital provides general and emergency care, and there is also an ambulance station in the town. Residential aged care is provided by Southern Cross Care, while Blue Care provides in-home community care.
Murgon’s health profile is significantly disadvantaged. Low median income correlates strongly with health issues. Smoking and poor diet are prevalent and almost two-thirds of residents are at an unhealthy weight. The high number of people aged 65 and over also means there are substantial rates of chronic illness.
Murgon is in the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN and is rated RA3.
Despite its small size, Murgon provides education options for children of all ages. There are four day care centres and kindergartens, while for primary students there is the public Murgon State School and St Joseph’s School, a private Catholic primary school. Secondary education is available at Murgon State High School, or parents can choose to send their children to state or private schools in Kingaroy.
For education beyond high school, the nearest university campus is the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) at Gympie, about 90 km away, or students could study online or move away to study. TAFE is another option, with campuses at nearby Cherbourg, as well as Kingaroy and Gympie.
Career options for partners
The biggest industries of employment for Murgon locals are education, health and grocery stores. While the unemployment rate is around 2 percent higher than for the rest of Queensland, rates of full-time work are only a few percent lower, with part-time work slightly more common. The number of people in Murgon employed as labourers is significantly higher than state and national levels, but this isn’t unusual for a farming region.
At the time of the 2016 census, more than one in five residents reported having worked in voluntary positions in the 12 months prior. Options for anyone wishing to undertake voluntary work include Graham House Community Centre, the Lifeline shop, the visitor information centre or the museum.
Arts and culture
Murgon’s major heritage site is the Queensland Dairy & Heritage Museum, which showcases the region’s dairying history, including displays of milking equipment, historical buildings and a glimpse of how the area’s early European settlers lived.
To find out about the area’s Indigenous history, head to Cherbourg, just 7 km south of Murgon. This now vibrant Aboriginal community is where Indigenous people from many different Queensland and New South Wales tribes were forced to move early in the 20th century under the Queensland Government’s segregation policy. Today, the Ration Shed Museum (the same shed from which residents were once allotted rations) provides an insight into life in Cherbourg, both past and present. The Cherbourg historical precinct also has a shop selling art and craft by the town’s residents.
For dance enthusiasts in Murgon, there are weekly line dancing classes available at the South Burnett Police-Citizens Youth Club (PCYC), and the RBS Dance Academy offers classes in a variety of dance styles. When it comes to art and craft groups, however, the town doesn’t have a huge amount to offer. For these and other cultural activities, Kingaroy is probably the best bet. This is also where the nearest cinema is located.
There is plenty to do in the Murgon area to keep outdoor enthusiasts entertained. Among the more unusual activities are fossil and gem fossicking in the nearby area.
The Kilkivan-Kingaroy Rail Trail passes through the town and is great for walking and cycling. The Murgon to Kilkivan section is also suitable for horse riding, however, as the trail from Murgon to Kingaroy is sealed, horses are not allowed there. This latter section is also known as the South Burnett Rail Trail.
Places to head to for a bushwalk include Jack Smith Scrub Regional Park and Boat Mountain Conservation Park, both not far from town to the north. These parks are ideal for birdwatching too, and Boat Mountain also has a couple of lookouts from which to view the surrounding area. Another place with views of the South Burnett valley is Kapernick Lookout in the Tableland district. This one can be driven to, so is a better option for those who don’t want to make the walk up Boat Mountain.
To Murgon’s south is Lake Barambah (also known as Bjelke-Petersen Dam), which is perfect for water sports and fishing. There are even fishing competitions held there. Murgon Weir, not far from the lake, is also suitable for swimming and canoeing, but can be a little hard to find.
For those who enjoy camping, there is a tourist park on the shore of Lake Barambah, near the dam wall, as well as a bush caravan and camping park a few kilometres from Murgon. If you’re looking for free or low cost camping, however, you’ll need to go quite a way from town, with Bunya Mountains National Park and Jimna State Forest among the possibilities.
Outdoor sports on offer in Murgon include cricket, tennis, rugby league, swimming, golf and bowls. There is also a skate park for the kids. The local PCYC offers a number of indoor sports as well, and there is also a judo club in town.
Food and drink
Perhaps surprisingly for a town of its size, Murgon has a good range of places for eating out. There are eight cafes, restaurants and takeaway stores, including Chinese and pizza restaurants. If you are looking for a nice piece of cake to go with that afternoon coffee or tea, there are several spots to choose from. In addition, the town has two pubs – The Australian Hotel and Royal Hotel – that serve both meals and drinks. The local RSL also has a bistro.
The Murgon area has become popular for grape growing in recent years, and there are several wineries close to the town that have cellar door tastings and sales, with some also offering meals and events.
While Murgon is growing, it is a slow growth and the housing stock reflects this. This means you will find plenty of older homes in town, and the low demand means you can get them for a great price. While there are some flats in town, most of the housing is in separate houses on good-sized blocks. The median price for a three-bedroom home in Murgon is around $145,000, though newer homes can cost considerably more. The same size house can be rented for around $220 per week.
The best way to get to and from Murgon is to travel by car. With the Bunya Highway (Route 49) passing through the town and other major roads nearby, it is easy to travel to other parts of the state. The only public transport is provided by Pursers Coaches, which runs a weekday bus service to Caboolture that leaves Murgon early in the morning and returns in the evening.
Broadband – The outskirts of Murgon and the surrounding area have been connected to the National Broadband Network, however, most of the town is not expected to have access to NBN until early 2019. Until then, ADSL2+ is available.
Notable residents – Rugby league players Gavin Cooper and Steve Renouf and actress Leah Purcell were all born in Murgon.