Oakey is a small but busy farming community in the Darling Downs region. It was officially founded in 1868, but the first farms had already been there for over 20 years. Later, the Western Railway was extended through the area, boosting the town’s growth.
Today Oakey is growing again. The local economy is mostly based on grain and meat processing, but it’s also close enough to Toowoomba to be attractive for commuters. Oakey is popular with young families.
- Population – 4,529
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander percentage of population – 8.1%
- Closest major town – Toowoomba
- Distance from airport – Oakey Airport (2.87 km) Brisbane International (137.91 km)
- Cinemas – 0
- Restaurants – 8
- Pubs/bars – 2
- Primary schools – 2
- Secondary schools – 1
- Tertiary education providers – 0
- Max average temp – 30.8°C
- Min average temp – 2.8°C
Oakey is close to the centre of the Darling Downs, just under 30 km west of Toowoomba. It sits on Oakey Creek, a tributary of the Condamine River. It is 160 km from Brisbane.
Oakey’s population profile is fairly close to the state and national averages, with a median age of 37. There’s a slight dip in people in their 20s, and an equally slight increase in those aged 65 or older. There’s a very low proportion of university graduates, though – 4.8%, compared with an Australian figure of 14.3%. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 8.1% of residents. The average resident spent 10.2 years in education.
The traditional owners of the area are the Jagera people. When the area was taken over for agriculture in the 19th century, its inhabitants were displaced, often being mixed with other peoples, and unfortunately most of the early history of the Oakey area has been lost.
The town of Oakey provides medical services at the local Oakey Hospital as well as through the Downs Rural Medical Centre. Both are serviced by the Oakey Ambulance Station and aged care is provided at the CWA House. The hospital provides emergency services as well as paediatrics, population health and asthma care. Internal medicine is provided at the Rural Medical Centre.
Oakey’s health profile is relatively disadvantaged. Median incomes in Oakey are below state and national levels and many residents are employed in hazardous jobs. Smoking and alcohol use rates are high and other unhealthy lifestyle factors are prevalent, including a very high incidence of unhealthy weight.
Oakey is in the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN and is rated RA2.
Because of its small population, there isn’t a huge range of schools to choose from in Oakey, but education through to the end of high school is covered. There is a local day care center, Little Champions Child Care.
There’s a state primary, plus a private Catholic one for those who prefer a church-based education. The state high school is well regarded; parents who still want a private option will find several in Toowoomba.
For continuing educational opportunities, nearby University of Southern Queensland – Toowoomba Campus is within commuting distance at only 30 km away.
Career options for partners
Oakey has an above-average employment rate, with 64.9% of residents in full-time work. There’s a relatively low number of professional and managerial jobs, however, with the largest employers being meat product manufacturing and defense. Around a quarter of residents work part-time, mostly in retail or catering.
18.3% of people do voluntary work for an organisation or group. Local charity organisations include the Friends of McDonald Nursing Home Organisation & St. Vincent de Paul.
Arts and Culture
Although Oakey is too small to offer a large range of cultural activities, there are some. Dance lessons are available through the Kingsthorpe School of Dance and the local art group meets weekly for various activities. The Oakey Cultural Centre has concerts and other cultural events. Art classes are available through the Oakey Art Group and the Oakey Art Studio. For films, the townsfolk drive 29 km out to Toowoomba as the town does not have a cinema.
There’s also the Museum of Army Aviation at the airport – which is also an active military airfield – and the Jondaryan Woolshed, which has been shearing sheep the traditional way for over 150 years.
There are plenty of outdoor escapes within easy reach of Oakey. For fishermen there’s Oakey Creek, which runs through the town itself – but for the best fishing, head upstream to Bowenville or Wainui. Gowrie Creek, less than 5 km from Oakey, is also worth checking out.
Alternatively, Ravensbourne National Park has a well-preserved rainforest habitat with some amazing bird life. Crows Nest National Park offers eucalypt forest and spectacular waterfalls, and there are camping facilities there if you’re planning a longer trip.
The area around Oakey is agricultural but there are some patches of bush left, making it easy to get away for a few hours. Less than an hour’s drive away you’ll find a lot more options, including the Crows Nest and Ravensbourne National Parks. If you enjoy heading for the woods and hills, you’ll find plenty of opportunities around Oakey.
The area around Oakey has plenty of quiet roads through scenic farmland, ideal for a cycling excursion. Nearby bush areas are also good if you’re looking for a more challenging ride.
If team sports are more your style, Oakey is well catered for. There are rugby league and soccer clubs which both have junior and senior teams, as well as a popular golf club and various other activities. Clubs include:
- Oakey Soccer Club
- Oakey Rugby League
- Oakey Bowls Club
- Oakey & District Race Club
- Oakey Golf Club
- Oakey Pony Club
Oakey doesn’t host any sporting competitions, but local rugby and soccer teams compete in regional and state competitions. These include the two local teams in the rugby League, junior and senior team: the Oakey Redbelly Blacks .
Food and Drink
Oakey has a small but decent selection of places to eat out. The top choice is the RSL Club’s restaurant but if you prefer Chinese, pizza or Middle Eastern you’ll find those too. Four cafes mean you can also find coffee and snacks easily.
Nightlife revolves around four bars, all located in the town centre but maintaining their own individual characters.
Oakey’s population is growing steadily, so there’s a lot of new housing available. Almost all homes are separate houses, with a few flats and town houses in the centre. Demand is fairly low, which helps keep it affordable despite the town being in easy commuting distance of Toowoomba.
The median price of a three bedroom house in Oakey is $246,000, with the rental of a similar home at around $290 per week.
Oakey has several options when it comes to transportation. The twice-weekly Westlander train between Charleville and Brisbane stops in Oakey. Alternatively, a Greyhound service to Brisbane via Toowoomba runs twice daily.
Oakey has easy access to the Warrego Highway, making it easy to reach Toowoomba, Brisbane and anywhere else on the Queensland Highway Network.
Broadband is available via ADSL2+ at up to 12Mbps; NBN fixed wireless has also been rolled out, giving speeds of up to 50Mbps.
The nearby Jondaryan Woolshed is the largest and oldest operating wool shed in the world; it attracts many visitors and highlights the local agricultural community.
The Swartz Barracks (Oakey) offers a training area for Australian Army Aviation and is also home to the 126 Squadron (Cougar helicopters) of the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
Oakey is well known to many television fans of Neighbours as it is regularly mentioned, with several characters either coming from or moving to Oakey.