Nathalia is a rural township on the Broken Creek, about 30 km. east of where the creek joins the Murray River in northern Victoria. It is 40 km. north-west of Shepparton.

The origin of the name is unclear. In the mid 1870s news was reportedly received from a passer-by in the Nathalia district that a titled European lady had given birth to a daughter named Nathalia. The story was probably inaccurate. The Queen of Serbia, formerly Natalya Keshko (and alternatively spelt Natalie and Nathalia), was married in 1875 and gave birth to a son in 1876. No better explanation has emerged as to the source of the name Nathalia.

The Nathalia township was surveyed in 1879, a period when pastoral runs in north Victoria were being subdivided for farm selections. Additional surveys in 1886 and 1889 enlarged the township site.

Before the name Nathalia gained the formality of gazettal in 1880, the name Barwo was more widely used. The Barwo school (1877) became the Nathalia school in 1882. The town also gained a hotel in 1880, a newspaper in 1884, a flour mill in 1885 and a mechanics’ institute in 1887. In 1889 the Victorian Municipal Directory described Nathalia as a rising township with two bank branches, a school, a mechanics’ institute, a large private hall, three churches, flour mills, two cordial factories, a printing office, four hotels, a number of shops and a railway line from Numurkah (1888).

The Nathalia and Lower Moira Agricultural Pastoral and Horticultural Association held its first agricultural show in 1888, after a prolonged drought in the district. In better years the flat ground near watercourses held enough moisture for orcharding and dairying. A butter factory was opened in 1892. Stock were grazed on the Barmah Common during years of poor rainfall. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Nathalia –

In 1914 an Irrigation League was formed, inspired by a recent drought and the benefits on the other side of the Goulburn River with the Western Channel from the Goulburn Weir. Unfortunately the waters would not stretch to Nathalia, even when the Sugarloaf (Eildon) and the Yarrawonga Weirs were completed in the 1930s. Farmers continued with adverse dry seasons and occasional years when floods inundated paddocks and threatened the township. Wheat was the mainstay, silos replacing the grainstore at the Nathalia railhead in 1942.

In 1945 the State Government began the acquisition of dry-farm properties in anticipation of settling returned servicemen on irrigated orchards and dairy farms. By 1951 a work camp was in the Nathalia district to construct irrigation and drainage channels. Nathalia-and-district’s population increased by 70% between the 1947 and 1961 censuses. Housing Commission houses and an extension to the shopping area were completed during the 1950s and a hospital was opened in 1955. On 26 April, 1957, the municipality which was named Nathalia shire (30 May, 1957), was severed from Numurkah shire, after a period of acrimony between the two towns.

Since 1919 the Nathalia school had been a Higher Elementary one, taking local children and boarders to Leaving standard. In 1959 a separate high school was opened. In 1961 a Catholic school was opened, extending to secondary education in 1974. The mechanics’ institute building, after periods of neglect, was acquired by the Nathalia historical society in 1972. Registered historic buildings in the township comprise the post office (1887) and Butler’s Store (1888), a good example of a large general store.

Nathalia township is situated on a horseshoe bend of Broken Creek from where flooding is held back by a levee bank. Behind the bank is a large reserve with ovals, tennis courts and a swimming pool. There are a caravan park, three hotels and a golf course. The former butter factory is a milk receiving depot for the Murray Valley factory in Cobram. The hospital, schools and four churches serve a town of about 1,500 people. The railway line from Numurkah closed in 1987.

Nathalia shire was amalgamated with Cobram and Numurkah shires and most of Tungamah and Yarrawonga shires to form Moira shire on 18 November, 1994. Nathalia shire had an area of 1,239 square kilometres, including Barmah and the Barmah State Forest along the Murray River, Picola and Waaia. In 1994 739 square kilometres of the shire was farmed, carrying 17,700 meat cattle, 26,500 dairy cattle and 64,000 sheep and lambs. Wheat and cereals were also grown.

The median house price in Nathalia in 1987 was $49,500 and in 1996 it was $93,000.

Nathalia’s census populations have been 689 (1891), 954 (1947), 1,859 (1961) and 1,455 (1996). The shire’s census populations were 3,225 (1966) and 3,406 (1991).

Nathalia from Broken Creek.
Postcard dated 1928. (Valentine postcard)

Further Reading:

  • Hibbins, Gillian, “A History of the Nathalia Shire: The Good Helmsmen”, Hawthorn Press, 1978.


Numurkah, a rural township in north Victoria, is about mid-way between Shepparton and the Murray River. It is situated on Broken Creek, in the Murray Valley irrigation area.

The area was occupied by the Yota-Yota people prior to European settlement. Squatters moved into the area from NSW in the late 1830s. After the pastoral runs were made available for farm selection, the township of Numurkah was surveyed in 1875. The name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning war shield, although a recent authority thinks that this is mistaken.

Six years after the Numurkah township was surveyed it was connected by railway to Shepparton. That same year the Chaffey Brothers were asked to look into the area’s prospects for irrigation development but they considered it unsuitable.

By then Numurkah had four hotels, a primary school (1879), a Bible Christian church (1879), a newsagent, the Numurkah Leader newspaper, a general store, a butcher and a baker. The coming of the railway, however, led to rapid growth during the 1880s, particularly while Numurkah was a terminus until 1888. Presbyterian, Catholic, Anglican and Wesleyan churches, a mechanics’ institute, numerous community and recreational societies and an agricultural implements factory were established. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Numurkah –

There was also a cordial factory until 1902, when it moved to Bendigo and became Tarax Drinks.

Having grown from fewer than 100 people to over 1,000 during the 1880s, Numurkah remained at about 1,400 until the outbreak of the Second World War. The Numurkah district was just beyond the reach of inter-war irrigation schemes from the Goulburn Weir (1905) and the Hume/Yarrawonga Weirs (1936), although a small private irrigation scheme from the Broken Creek watered a five hectare orchard which was a local showpiece. Farmers relied on dry-farming techniques in a variable rainfall environment of between nine and thirty-eight inches a year.

In 1939 the Yarrawonga Main channel began carrying irrigation waters towards Numurkah, but work was delayed by the war until 1944. Resumption of irrigation works coincided with the settlement of demobilized soldiers in the Murray Valley irrigation area. In 1946 as land holdings were acquired for subdivision into orchards 16 ha. and dairy farms 49 ha., irrigation and drainage channels were built. By 1956 the works were ending at northern-most Ulupna at the Murray River. Some immigrants who laboured on the works settled on the new farms.

Numurkah is a service township for a rural community. Its secondary and tertiary industries are mostly limited to the town’s service function. There are a high school (1951) and State and Catholic primary schools, three hotels, three motels, five churches, a saleyards and a showground. Local sports and recreation are provided for by a golf course, two ovals, a rifle range, a bowling green, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a caravan park. There are a hospital and elderly persons’ facilities. In 1962 the annual Numurkah Rose Festival began and there is a rose garden where the main street crosses Broken Creek. A museum houses the local historical society and the courthouse (1889) is a registered historic building. Court operations ceased in 1986 and the building became a community learning centre.

The Numurkah hinterland was placed under local government in 1871 as part of the Echuca shire. It was later part of Shepparton shire, which was severed from Echuca shire in 1879. Numurkah shire was formed in April, 1884, but oddly called Shepparton until named Numurkah on 11 September, 1885. The shire also contained Nathalia and the two towns had periods of an uneasy relationship until separation into two shires occurred on 31 May, 1957. Numurkah shire’s area was reduced by about 63% to 820 sq. km. The shire contained the towns of Katunga, Strathmerton and Wunghu and the localities of Baulkanaugh, Dranmure and Ulupna on the Murray River.

In 1994 Numurkah shire had 613 sq. km., or 75% of its area, as farmland. There were 52,800 dairy cattle, 11,300 meat cattle and 35,000 head of sheep and lambs.

The shire has sufficient retail floor space for its local needs. In 1985 there were 8,100 sq. metres, much larger than Tungamah (700 sq. m.), but less than Shepparton city (100,000 sq. m.).

On 18 November, 1994, Numurkah, Nathalia and most of Yarrawonga and Tungamah shires were united to form Moira shire.

In 1987 the median house price in Numurkah was $55,000 and in 1995 it was $78,550.

Numurkah’s census populations have been 96 (1881), 1,011 (1891), 1,519 (1947), 2,658 (1976) and 3,128 (1991). The shire’s census populations were 6,111 (1961), 5,507 (1976) and 6,813 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Bossence, W.H., “Numurkah”, Hawthorn Press, 1979.
  • Morieson, Hilda, “Shaping a Shire: The Story of Numurkah”, Apex Back To Numurkah Committee, 1970.


Katamatite, a rural township in northern Victoria, is in the Murray Valley irrigation area and is 42 km. north-east of Shepparton. The name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word naming or describing a local creek. The township is on Boosey Creek near its junction with Broken Creek.

In the 1870s pastoral stations were opened for closer settlement as smaller farms, and in 1874 a township was surveyed on Boosey Creek. Four years later township buildings were erected – although on the side of the creek opposite the surveyed town site – and a school was opened. Methodist and Presbyterian churches were opened in 1882 and 1884, and a mechanics’ institute in 1884. A private tramway joined Katamatite to the Dookie railway line in 1890, and was absorbed into the Victorian railways network in 1896. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Katamatite –

Katamatite farmers mostly grew wheat and animal fodder, and bagged wheat was transported from the Katamatite railway station until a silo was built in 1943. In 1939 irrigation waters from the Yarrawonga main canal were distributed in the Katamatite district, providing dairy pastures in place of wheat paddocks. The township is surrounded by irrigation channels.

Katamatite has a primary school, Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches, a public hall, a recreation reserve with football, cricket and tennis clubs, a hotel, motel and a caravan park, a local museum and several community organisations. There is also a school at Katamatite East, ten kilometres north-east of Katamatite.

Katamatite’s census populations have been 120 (1901), 367 (1921), 586 (1961) and 204 (1996).

Further Reading:

  • Rudd, Ada, Katamatite: The First 100 Years 1876-1976, 1986.