Townsville, Queensland

Townsville is a city on the north-eastern coast of Australia, in the state of Queensland. Adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, it is in the dry tropics region of Queensland. Townsville is Australia's largest urban centre north of the Sunshine Coast with the 2006 census recording the Townsville Statistical District (the urban centre) population to be 143,328 people. Townsville is seen as the unofficial capital of North Queensland as it hosts a significant number of governmental, community and major business administrative offices for the northern half of the state.

Popular attractions include 'The Strand', a long tropical beach and garden strip; Riverway, a riverfront parkland attraction located on the banks of Ross River; Reef HQ, a large tropical aquarium holding many of the Great Barrier Reef's native flora and fauna; the Museum of Tropical Queensland, built around a display of relics from the sunken British warship HMS Pandora; and Magnetic Island, a large neighbouring island, the vast majority of which is national park.



The city started life inauspiciously in 1859 when a sea captain by the name of Robert Towns commissioned John Melton Black to build a wharf on Cleveland Bay to service the new cattle industry inland. The location for the town was dictated by its location between the Burdekin and Herbert rivers, which, when in flood, could isolate access to the area by land for months at a time. The town was gazetted in 1865 and was declared a city in 1903.


In 1864, Townsville covered a very small area of land at the mouth of Ross Creek (an arm of the Ross River) and around Castle Hill. Originally just a Road Board, in 1882 the (then) Thuringowa Shire had to cede land to the growing city of Townsville by the State, and by 1916 Townsville had progressively expanded into a large amount of previously Shire land. Between the two world wars Townsville continued to expand into many areas of Thuringowa Shire. Many of the settlements of Thuringowa became part of the City of Townsville. Thuringowa Shire Council often went though hard times due to continually building infrastructure for new suburbs which it was then forced to cede to Townsville City Council. It also lost the ratepayers who would have paid for that infrastructure over the long term.

Although historically the two City Councils and Mayors worked very well together and shared major infrastructure, there was an issue of unnecessary duplication of services. Since its transformation into a City, Thuringowa had become more densely populated as the urban sprawl spread beyond the original urban focus. Minor boundary adjustments were made recently to attempt the rationalise the border between the two Local Government Areas. Friendly rivalry between the two cities councils had positive benefits to Townsville resulting in such projects as Thuringowa's Riverway as an alternative to The Strand.

The two separate Cities and their councils merged in March 2008 as part of the Queensland State Government's Local Government Reform program which intends to merge more than half of the state's Local Governments.

Japanese influence

In 1896, Japan established its first Australian consulate in the then town, primarily to service some 4,000 Japanese workers who arrived to work in the sugar cane, turtle, trochus, beche de mere and pearling industries. With the introduction of the White Australia policy, the demand for Japanese workers decreased, causing the consulate to finally close in 1908.

Second World War

During World War II, the city played host to over 50,000 American and Australian troops as it became a major staging point for battles in the South West Pacific. A large United States Armed Forces contingent supported the war effort from various bases around the city. The first bombing raid on Rabaul on 23 February 1942 was carried out by six B-17s based near Townsville. It was common for B-26 Marauders, B-17 Flying Fortresss or B-25 Mitchell bombers to take off on long range bombing raids from Garbutt air base.

Within the town a great deal of construction occurred during World War II. For example there are numerous hidden air raid bunkers, reports of secret tunnels and similar secret units.

In July 1942, the city was subjected to three small air raids by the Japanese. Several 500 lb bombs were dropped in the harbour, near the Garbutt airfield and at Oonoonba, Queensland - at the latter location craters are still clearly visible. No lives were lost and structural damage was minimal, as the Japanese missed their intended target of the railway and destroyed a palm tree. While the Japanese aircraft were intercepted on two of the three raids, no Japanese planes were shot down.

1970 onwards

On Christmas Eve 1971, Tropical Cyclone Althea, a category 4 cyclone, battered the city and Magnetic Island, causing considerable damage. Other tropical storms have threatened the area in the intervening years, but with less effect.

In October 2000, a Solomon Islands Peace Agreement was negotiated in Townsville.

Urban layout

Urban development continues to expand west, north and south into the former rural areas, and inner city high-density development has also created population growth and gentrification of the central business district (CBD). One significant contributor to CBD development was the construction of a new rail passenger terminal and moving the railway workshops, releasing prime real estate which formerly belonged to Queensland Rail for the development of residential units, retail projects and a new performing arts centre. The skyline of Townsville's central business district is set for dramatic changes over the next few years, with a number of new highrise buildings under construction or in planning.

Medium term expansion of Townsville/Thuringowa will be in two major urban developments starting shortly. Rocky Springs, a planned satellite city to the south of Townsville, is expected to eventually be home to 50,000 people. Additionally, expansion to the North includes a new $1 billion 5,000-lot housing estate, which will be located close to the Bruce Highway, just north of the Bohle River. It will be the largest planned housing estate in North Queensland to this point. The State Government announced it will be offering 270ha of State-owned land to the north for future urban expansion.


Townsville lies approximately 1,300 km north of Brisbane, and 350 km south of Cairns. It lies on the shores of Cleveland Bay, protected to some degree from the predominately south-east weather. Cleveland Bay is mostly shallow inshore, with several large beaches and continually shifting sand bars. Magnetic Island lies 8 km offshore, to the north of the city centre.

The Ross River flows through the city. Three weirs, fish stocking and dredging of the river in these reaches has resulted in a deep, stable and clean waterway used for many recreational activities. Thirty kilometres from the mouth (at the junction of Five Head Creek) is the Ross River Dam, the major water storage for the urban areas. This is supplemented by pipelines from a smaller dam in the Paluma range to the north, and in times of drought, further water may be sourced by pumping from the Burdekin Dam. Because of the shifting sand bars at the mouth, Ross River is navigable only by small vessels, where speed and wash limits apply in most sections.

The historic waterfront on Ross Creek, site of the original wharves and port facilities, has some excellent old buildings mixed with the later modern skyline. However, the central city is dominated by the mass of red granite called Castle Hill, 292 metres high (just 8 metres short of being a mountain). There is a lookout at the summit giving panoramic views of the city and its suburbs, including Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island. There are a number of parks scattered throughout the city, including three botanical gardens - Anderson Park, Queens Gardens and The Palmetum.


The North-East Coastlands Region is characterised by its somewhat dry, tropical climate (where the Outback meets the sea), with distinct seasonal weather patterns. The wet runs from November through March and produces heavy rainfall heralded by thunderstorms; yet, there is rarely any rain during the other part of the year. The area receives a lower annual rainfall than the "wet" tropics due to its northern coastal orientation, as the south east trade winds move parallel to the coast rather than perpendicular to it.

Rainfall is not only seasonal; it is erratic and unreliable. Records show the average ranges from 2571 millimetres at Paluma (north west of the city) to 1136 millimetres at Townsville City to 853 millimetres at Woodstock (inland, south of the city). Robinson provides a summary of the broader impact of these conditions, in creating a hostile climate for summer-growing:

Rain is heavy, though [usually short], so that even in the wet season there is usually a high proportion of bright sunshine. This attracts many [younger workers]; but the high temperatures, brightness, lack of moisture in winter, and the prospect of flooding in summer have a profound impact on all the aspects of life and landscape. Special techniques are required for successful farming, sub-tropical crops are important items of production, pastures grow only in summer, and transport may be dislocated when it is needed most. Since the onset of white settlement, pastoralists and farmers of the North-East Coastlands Region have faced problems for which there are no answers in the agriculture practices of temperate lands [but intensive labor].

Like most of North and Far North Queensland, Townsville is prone to Tropical Cyclones. They usually occur between November and May (the so-called Cyclone Season), forming mainly out in the Coral Sea, and usually tracking west to the coast. Notable cyclones to affect the Townsville Region have been: Cyclone Tessi (2000), Cyclone Joy (1990), Cyclone Althea (1971), Cyclone Leonta (1903) and Cyclone Sigma (1896).

Townsville has an average daily temperature between 19.7 °C to 28.8 °C. December is the warmest month of the year with daily temperatures ranging from 24.0 °C to 31.4 °C. July is the coolest month with daily temperatures ranging from 13.5 °C to 25.0 °C. Townsville experiences an annual average of 8.4 hours of sunshine per day.


Townsville is the Northern Queensland administrative centre for many State and Federal Government agencies, housing the area offices of many departments and governmental bodies such as Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office.


Townsville is governed by a City Council, composed of a Mayor and 12 Councillors. Following local government reform undertaken by the Government of Queensland, NQ Water, the City of Townsville and the City of Thuringowa were merged. The City Council has no divisions however it may go back to divisions for individual Councillors for the 2012 election. The Mayor of Townsville is Les Tyrell (Independent) who was elected on 15 March 2008, Tyrell is the former Mayor of 17 years of the former local government authority of Thuringowa. The previous Mayor of Townsville for 19 years was Tony Mooney (Australian Labor Party).


In the Unicameral Queensland Parliament four electorates cover the Townsville Region:


Townsville is represented in the Australian House of Representatives by Peter Lindsay MP (Liberal Party of Australia), the Member for the Division of Herbert. Historically a swinging seat, it is currently held by a small margin.

Ian Macdonald, one of twelve politicians elected by Queensland to the Australian Senate, is the only Senator based in Townsville.


The Townsville Regional Economy is widely credited as being the most diverse of its kind in Australia. Its recent performance has outstripped neighbouring economies, with growth peaking in 2004-05 at a 12% increase in Gross Regional Product over the median term, and 7.8% in 2006-07, for an average rate of approximately 9% per financial year. Tourism has of late helped in the city's expansion , though its traditional role is an industrial port (via the Port of Townsville) for exporting minerals from Mount Isa and Cloncurry, beef and wool from the western plains, as well as sugar and timber from the coastal regions, trades which continue to influence corporate growth strategies.

Economic growth in the region was "not restricted to heavy industry growth attributed to the resources boom under the Howard Government, [as] the region’s tourism growth also outstripped neighbouring regions.

  • Residents in Townsville have average household incomes about 10% above the state average: in 2003/04 it was closer to the New South Wales average than the Queensland average.
  • The city remains popular with tourists, and backpackers are particularly drawn to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef. The city has excellent diving and snorkelling facilities, with a variety of vessels using the port as a home base for their reef tourism activities.

In 2004, there were 11,762 businesses in Townsville and 4,610 in Thuringowa. There were still "lots of well-paying job opportunities" in the city itself come mid-2008, when the number of unemployed had risen (nationally) by 100,000 workers, including "considerable employment requirements" in the trades (280 job vacancies), engineering (117), administration (100), sales (97) and hospitality (90).

The city also has its own manufacturing and processing industries. Townsville is the only city globally to refine three different base metals—Zinc, Copper and Nickel—and it is currently in strong contention for an aluminium refinery. Nickel ore is imported from Indonesia, the Philippines and New Caledonia and processed at the Yabulu Nickel refinery, 30 kilometres north of the port. Zinc ore is transported by rail from the Cannington Mine, south of Cloncurry, for smelting at the Sun Metals refinery south of Townsville. Copper concentrate from the smelter at Mt Isa is also railed to Townsville for further refining at the copper refinery at Stuart.

Townsville has several large public assets due to its relative position and population. These include the largest campus of the only university in northern Queensland, James Cook University, the CSIRO Davies Laboratory, the Australian Institute of Marine Science headquarters, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the large Army base at Lavarack Barracks and RAAF Base Townsville.


For a full list of suburbs in Townsville and the surrounding region see Suburbs of Townsville

Townsville has a younger population than the Australian and Queensland averages. The city has traditionally experienced a high turnover of people, with the army base and government services bringing in many short to medium term workers. The region has also become popular with mine workers on fly in/fly out contracts. Major improvements to the lifestyle infrastructure over the past 10 years has led to a higher living standard, and consequently the population boom. In 2005-06, the Townsville Statistical District grew at just over 3 per cent and was the fifth fastest growing district or division in Australia.

The annual average rate of change in population in the Townsville/Thuringowa between 30 June 2000 and 30 June 2005 was 2.5%, compared with 2.2% for Queensland.

Population statistics

2001 Census Category Townsville Australia
Industry of Employment
5.1% 4.0%
Industry of Employment
4.8% 0.4%
Health Services
Industry of Employment
4.4% 3.8%
Business Services
Industry of Employment
4.1% 5.4%
Personal and Household
Good Retailing
Industry of Employment
3.7% 3.5%
Indigenous Persons 5.4% 2.2%
English only
spoken at home
90.7% 80.0%
Italian only
spoken at home
0.7% 1.9%
spoken at home
0.4% 1.4%
Born in Australia 83.2% 72.6%
Born in England 2.9% 4.5%
Born in New Zealand 2.1% 1.9%
Born in PNG 0.5% 0.1%
0-4 years old 7.2% 6.6%
5-14 years old 14.5% 14.2%
15-24 years old 17.5% 13.7%
25-54 years old 43.3% 43.5%
55-64 years old 7.9% 9.4%
65 years old + 9.5% 12.6%

Medium range population projections before Amalgamation

Projection year Townsville Thuringowa
2006 102 936 61 072
2011 111 885 70 066
2016 118 358 78 431
2021 122 467 85 769
2026 126 908 93,228

Yearly population statistics

(30 June)
Townsville Stat. District
(urban Townsville/ Thuringowa)


category of
population estimate
2005 148 767 (+3%) 100 772 (+2.7%) 59 231 (+2.9%) ABS preliminary
2004 144 417 (+2.6%) 98 075 (+2.2%) 57 538 (+2.8%) ABS revised
2003 140 761 (+2.4%) 95 947 (+2.1%) 55 951 (+2.6%) ABS revised
2002 137 507 (+2.6%) 94 007 (+2.1%) 54 520 (+3.4%) ABS revised
2001 134 073
+9.5% since 1996
92 074
+6.2% since 1996
52 715
+16.1% since 1996
figures from 2001 Census
2000 131 100 90 531 51 185 ABS final
1999 127 873 88 939 49 279 ABS final
1998 125 203 87 559 47 762 ABS final
1997 123 551 87 009 46 417 ABS final
1996 122 415
+1.4% since 1991
86 715
+0.1% since 1991
45 410
+5.1% since 1991
figures from 1996 Census
1995 121 081 86 559 43 904 ABS final
1994 119 189 86 352 41 814 ABS final
1993 121 700 87 700 40 062
1992 118 400 86 600 36 962
1991 114 063 86 245 35 331 figures from 1991 Census
1989 32 930
1988 110 300 83 200


See List of schools in Townsville.

There are over 60 private and State schools of primary and secondary education within the Townsville area.

James Cook University

The largest of James Cook University's campuses is located in Douglas. The University is planning a billion dollar expansion, including extra student accommodation, a Student Village (i.e shopping mall, cafes, restaurants, etc.), and extra faculties. The Veterinary Sciences undergraduate facility is the newest in Australia, while the Physical and Sports Recreation Science faculty was recently opened to students. James Cook University also has a Medical School which is linked with the tertiary level Townsville Hospital.

Vocational education

The city is home to the Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE - a Technical and Further Education College, a campus of the Australian Agricultural College Corporation and a new Australian Technical College – North Queensland campus which opened in 2007 in Douglas.

Culture, Events and Festivals

Townsville is the venue for the Annual Australian Festival of Chamber Music, which runs over ten days each year in July. The festival has been running since 1991, and attracts many acclaimed international and Australian musicians. The city also has its own orchestra, the Barrier Reef Orchestra, which presents concerts throughout North Queensland.

The region has many renowned festivals, celebrating some of the various international cultures that call the region home. The Annual Greek and Italian Festivals (Italian based in Ingham, north of Townsville and Greek based at Thuringowa's Riverway) are popular with the locals and tourists alike

The city has a large and diverse range of restaurants representing many different cuisines of the world. The Palmer Street restaurant strip in South Townsville is home to many of these, and is the scene for an annual Jazz Festival.

The city also has a vibrant pub and night-club scene, many of them located in Flinders Street East. Local and national music groups can often be found performing live in these venues.

The Townsville Entertainment Centre, seating 4500 people, is host to many national and international music shows, as well as sporting and trade shows. The Townsville Civic Theatre is North Queensland's premier cultural facility. Since its opening in 1978, the Theatre has been a centre of entertainment and performing arts, providing an environment to further develop the performing arts in Townsville and the North.

Media and communications

Townsville is the media centre for North Queensland, with 5 commercial radio stations, North Queensland ABC radio station, 3 commercial television stations, one regional daily newspaper and one community weekly newspaper (both owned by News Ltd). There are no local Sunday papers although The Sunday Mail (Qld) - based in Brisbane - does have a North Queensland edition.

Sport and recreation

Townsville hosts a National Rugby League team, the North Queensland Cowboys, a National Basketball League team, the Townsville Crocodiles, a Women's National Basketball League team, the Townsville Fire. Discussions are also underway for a new A-League association football (soccer) side to be based in Townsville. The team will be known as the Northern Thunder FC and will play their home games at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

The Cowboys play at Dairy Farmers Stadium in the suburb of Kirwan. The stadium was first built in 1995 after it was announced that Townsville would be home to a new NRL Rugby League Team. The stadium was extensively upgraded in 2005-6, including increased capacity by extending the eastern terrace. The stadium has a capacity record of 30,302, set in 1999. Additionally the Dairy Farmers Stadium was an official venue the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup, with three matches played in Townsville. Townsville also hosted the enormously popular Japanese national rugby union team during the World Cup, with the team playing the majority of the preliminary round games at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

In 2006, the Super 14 rugby union team Queensland Reds played their final home fixture of the season at Dairy Farmers Stadium, after playing all of their previous home fixtures in their regular home of Brisbane.

The Riverway Project, a new major urban and recreational development in the Suburb of Condon has an international standard Cricket and Australian rules football stadium known as Tony Ireland Stadium.

Townsville also hosts three Touch Football associations. The Townsville/Castle Hill Touch Association (TCHTA) conducts many competitions annually at its grounds at Queens Park, Townsville. Thuringowa Touch Association (TTA) also conducts competitions at Greenwood Park, Kirwan. Townsville and Thuringowa sides are regular combatants in the annual North Queensland Tropical Cyclones Touch Association's Championships. For the past two years, representative sides from both associations have featured heavily in the finals series with either of the two associations claiming the coveted Men's Opens division. The first NQ Championships were held in Townsville in June 1978, with the teams from the then 10 affiliated bodies competing in Mens Over 25. The Championships have still been held in Townsville for many years due to its central location and the strength of the sport in the district.

AFL Townsville operate an Australian rules football league in the region.

Townsville is also the stronghold of Zone 6 of the Queensland Darts Association. Current and past players include Tony David, winner of the 2002 Embassy World Championships, David Nogar Jnr, the first Queensland player to throw a nine dart game in a sanctioned match, Wiggy Solomon and Jeremy Fagg, both currently in the top 10 Queensland players (as rated by the Darts Federation of Australia).



Townsville is within Queensland Health's Townsville Health Service District which also includes Ingham and Palm Island.

The primary health facility for the region is Townsville Hospital. It is a teaching hospital located close to the James Cook University School of Medicine in Douglas and is the largest hospital in Australia outside of a capital city, it services communities all the way up to Papua New Guinea. Townsville Hospital has 460 beds with services. The Hospital employs approximately 72 full-time specialist staff and 48 visiting specialists.

There are three additional health campuses in Townsville, Kirwan Health Campus, the Magnetic Island Health Service Centre and the North Ward Health Campus.

Townsville Hospital Dentist is the public dental health facility for the Townsville region, it is located in North Ward.


Townsville is connection point of two major National Highway routes, the A1 (Bruce Highway), and the A6 (Flinders Highway). The A1 connects Townsville to Cairns in the north, and Mackay, Rockhampton, and Brisbane in the south. The A6 connects Townsville to Charters Towers and Mount Isa in the west.

Numerous road projects are under construction or planned in the future, especially the Townsville Ring Road, which will eventually become the new A1 route bypassing the urban areas of the city.

The North Coast railway line, operated by Queensland Rail, meets the Western line in the city's south. Rail services from Brisbane pass through Townsville and continue through to Cairns, including the regular Tilt Train service between Brisbane and Cairns. Townsville is a major destination and generator of rail freight services. Container operations are also common in the city. The products of the local nickel and copper refineries as well as minerals from the western line (Mt Isa) are transported to the port for trans-shipment to other destinations.

Townsville has a significant port at the mouth of Ross Creek. The Port of Townsville has bulk handling facilities for importing cement, nickel ore (for processing at the Yabulu Nickel Refinery), and fuel, and for exporting sugar and products from North Queensland's mines. The port has three sugar storage sheds, with the newest being the largest under-cover storage area in Australia.

Townsville's public transport system consists of bus services operated by Sunbus. Sunbus provides regular services between many parts of the city, and also operates several express routes. Public transport is also available from the CBD to Bushland Beach, a route run by Townsville's Hermit Park Bus Service, Townsville's biggest Charter Bus Service.

Regular ferry and vehicular barge services operate to Magnetic Island and Palm Island. The ferry service to both islands is operated by Sunferries

The City is served by Townsville International Airport, but hasn't handled regular international flights since 2002. The Airport handles daily flights to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, as well as to regional destinations such as Cairns, Mount Isa and Mackay.

Defence facilities

The Australian Army maintains a very strong presence in the north of Australia and this is evident by the basing of the Army's 3rd Brigade in Townsville. The 3rd Brigade is a light infantry brigade with significant air-mobile assets. The brigade consists of two Light Infantry Battalions 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and Cavalry contingent. It has integral Artillery, Engineer, Aviation Reconnaissance and Combat Service Support Units. It is a high readiness brigade that has been deployed frequently at very short notice on combat operations outside mainland Australia. These include Somalia, Rwanda, Namibia, East Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to the 3rd Brigade, a number of other major units are based in Townsville. These include the 5th Aviation Regiment, equipped with Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, co-located at the RAAF Base in Garbutt and the 10th Force Support Battalion based at Ross Island. 10 FSB is a force logistics unit that provides back up logistic support to deployed units. The battalion provides specialist transport (including amphibious) and supply support. Along with this there is also 11 Combat Service Support Unit and 3Combat Engineer Regiment.

The Army also maintains an Army Reserve Brigade in Townsville designated the 11th Brigade. This formation is similar in structure to the 3rd Brigade but comprises reserve soldiers only. There is also two active cadet units, 130ACU located within Heatley Secondary College and 15 ACU located at Ignatius Park College.

As with the Army, the Royal Australian Air Force also maintains a presence in Townsville. RAAF Base Townsville, which is located in the suburb of Garbutt, houses the DHC-4 Caribou aircraft from No. 38 Squadron RAAF. This detachment provides support to the Army units in Townsville. The base is also a high readiness Defence asset and is prepared to accept the full range of RAAF aircraft types as well as other international aircraft including the huge US C-17 Globemaster and the Russian Antonov transport aircraft.

Townsville is also the staging point for the movement of men and materials to the remote parts of Northern Australia and many overseas locations.

Notable people


  • 95.9FM - ABC Classic FM (NORTH TOWNSVILLE)
  • 96.7FM - Radio National (NORTH TOWNSVILLE)
  • 97.5FM - Triple J (NORTH TOWNSVILLE)
  • 99.9FM - Live FM
  • 100.7FM - Sea FM
  • 101.5FM - ABC Classic FM
  • 102.3FM - 4TO
  • 103.1FM - Hot FM
  • 103.9FM - 4TTT
  • 104.7FM - Radio National
  • 105.5FM - Triple J
  • 106.3FM - Mix FM
  • 107.1FM - 4KIG


External links


Public utilities

Fact Sheets

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