The Mourilyan Sugar mill began construction in 1882, rendering it amongst the oldest in Australia. Excavation of the site was mainly undertaken by the Kanaka peoples with relatively small contribution also from Chinese and Anglo-Saxon labourers. After its completion in 1884, the mill had a processing capacity of 14 tonnes of sugar per 12-hour shift.
In 1913, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as it was then known (now CSR) began purchasing sugar refined at the mill. The Mourilyan community remained a quite small settlement growing only very slowly since.
Mourilyan has consistently been prone to cyclones. In 1918, a cyclone caused the community and mill serious damage having a drastic effect on the sugar production in that year. In 1986 Cyclone Winifred (Larry's Brother) also caused substantial damage to the area.
The township of Mourilyan is still reeling from the effects of Cyclone Larry. The cyclone caused substantial damage to a huge percentage of households in the area in addition to rendering the town's main source of employment defunct. A huge effort by the Australian Defence Force helped to restore Mourilyan Primary School to functioning capacity and insurance payouts have assisted in getting households and business repaired.