History of Winton Shire

History of Winton Shire

Where dinosaurs roamed and Matilda first waltzed

Winton’s rich history has links to Waltzing Matilda and QANTAS, but today the town is almost as well known for something far more ancient – dinosaurs. Winton’s first official dinosaur discovery was a fossilised footprint found on Cork Station in 1962. Further exploration revealed a dinosaur stampede with over 3,300 footprints, which you can see up close at Lark Quarry.

In 1999, the then largest dinosaur ever found in Australia, a 20-30 tonne Sauropod, was discovered on a property outside Winton. He was nicknamed Elliot, after David Elliot, the farmer who discovered him and went on to establish The Age of Dinosaurs.

Before long, more Sauropods from the group called Titanosaurs (the largest dinosaurs to walk the earth) were discovered. These later discoveries also include Banjo, Australia’s largest known carnivorous dinosaur.

Qantas 300dpi

Once a jolly swagman…

Speaking of Banjo, Winton is known as the home of Waltzing Matilda, with Banjo Paterson writing our unofficial national song in 1895 while visiting Dagworth Station. Legend has it that the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda was at Winton’s North Gregory Hotel on April 6th 1895.

Where QANTAS first took off

QANTAS may have grown up in Longreach but it was born in Winton! Officially registered as a company in Winton on 16 November, 1920, the very first Board Meeting followed soon after at the Winton Club.

Later that year, the Winton Shire Council became the first local authority in Australia to support Commercial Aviation, after subsidising by half the cost of establishing a landing field in Winton – the princely sum of £20.

The main headquarters of QANTAS was shifted to Longreach in 1921. Winton commemorates the establishment of QANTAS with two wonderful landmarks – one in Elderslie Street and the other a popular tourist attraction on the original airstrip.

Precious opals

The Winton area is also famous for its precious boulder opals, the second rarest opal in the world (behind black opals). Visitors are welcome to try their luck fossicking for opals at Opalton, or you can skip the digging and simply buy a spectacular piece of opal jewellery from one of the local miners.

The Traditional Owners – the Koa People

Pre-colonial settlement in the region, the land now known as Winton was home to the Koa People. The shire also encompasses six other Indigenous nations. We acknowledge their rich culture and deep Knowledge of their country. The Winton shire spans over 53,000 square kilometers of spinifex, red dirt, ancient rock formations and vast skies.

The Koa People’s land is bordered by land belonging to the Maiawali, Karuwali, Yirandali, Inningai, Pitta Pitta and Wanamara Peoples. By 2021, descendants of the Koa people have had Native Title determination of more than 865,000 hectares of land in and near Winton (Queensland Government, 2021).