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Innisfail, Queensland

The township of Innisfail, as seen from Coquette Point
Innisfail is located in Queensland
Population 8,262 (2006)[1]
Established 1879 [2]
Postcode(s) 4860
Elevation 10 m (33 ft)[3]
LGA(s) Cassowary Coast Region
State electorate(s) Mulgrave
Federal Division(s) Kennedy

Innisfail is a town in the far north of the state of Queensland, Australia, which until 1910 was known as Geraldton. It is the major township of the Cassowary Coast and is well renowned for its sugar and banana industries, as well as for being one of Australia's wettest towns. In March 2006 Innisfail gained worldwide attention when severe Tropical Cyclone Larry passed over causing extensive damage.[4][5]


  • History 1
  • Heritage listings 2
  • Culture 3
  • Religion 4
  • Geography 5
    • Climate 5.1
    • Cyclones 5.2
  • Council controversy 6
  • Innisfail today 7
  • Notable residents 8
  • In Popular Culture 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


Prior to European settlement the Innisfail area was occupied by five separate societies of the Mamu people. These Aboriginal people followed migratory lifestyles in the rainforest and traversed rivers in string-bark canoes.

The first arrival of European people came in 1872 when survivors of the shipwreck, the "Maria" arrived on the coastal areas surrounding what is now the Johnstone River. Sub-Inspector Robert Arthur Johnstone's search party came with the intention of rescuing remaining survivors. The crew would later venture up river between what is today Flying Fish and Coquette Points. Johnstone wrote very highly of the area, stating:

A most glorious view appeared - a noble reach of fresh water, studded with blacks with their canoes and catamarans, others on the sandy beaches; deep blue fresh water expanding to an imposing breadth.
— Robert Johnstone (1872), [2]

Johnstone named the area after himself and upon his recommendation the explorer George Dalrymple arrived in the area in September 1873 to chart the area further.

Later in 1879, Irishman Thomas Henry FitzGerald arrived in the area to establish a sugar industry. He was accompanied by large numbers of Kanaka South Sea Islanders workers accompanied by smaller numbers of Irish labourers. The house built by FitzGerald and thus the first establishment in the area was called Innisfallen, after the largest island in the Lakes of Killarney, Ireland. Inis Fáil (Island of Destiny) is an ancient Irish name for Ireland itself. The name is used in the rarely-sung third verse of "The Soldier's Song", the Irish national anthem. The stone mentioned may be the stone at Tara, Co Meath, at which high kings of Ireland were crowned.

Banana plantations in Geraldton (now Innisfail) in 1902

From 1879, the settlement was named Geraldton after FitzGerald, but in 1910 was renamed "Innisfail" to avoid confusion with the town of the same name in Western Australia.[6]

Johnstone River Post Office opened on 1 November 1882 (a receiving office had been open from 1880), was renamed Geraldton two months later and Innisfail in 1910.[7]

The 1920s and 1930s saw the beginning of a major period of settlement by Italian immigrants and noteworthy populations from Greece and Malta. Later in this period populations from Yugoslavia, India and the Philippines would also settle in the area.[2][8]

Local rugby league footballer Kerry Boustead was the only player from outside the Sydney and Brisbane Leagues selected to represent Australia on the 1978 Kangaroo tour.

Innisfail War Memorial, 2006
Court house
Canecutters Memorial

The Innisfail War Memorial in Jack Fossey Park on Fitzgerald Esplanade was dedicated on 16 April 2005; it commemorates those who served in all wars.[9]

Today the town still boasts many good examples of the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles of architecture.

Heritage listings

Innisfail has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:


A large turnout of the Annual Harvest Festival Parade in 2005

Today Innisfail remains incredibly multicultural, with prominent populations of indigenous Australians, Europeans (in particular Italians), Indians and East Asians (in particular Hmongs).[15][16][17]

A number of events take place annually to celebrate the cultural diversity within the Innisfail community:

  • Kulture Karnival
  • Festival Innisfail
  • Feast of the Senses
  • Feast of the Three Saints

Such events are extremely popular among residents and attract good turnouts.[18]

In 2001 Los Angeles band Sugar Ray filmed part of their music DVD "Music in High Places" at the Johnstone Crocodile Farm in Innisfail.

Being a small community, and one that was recently subjected to a severe natural disaster Innisfail harbours a definite sense of community. The township has only 2 secondary schools: Good Counsel College and Innisfail State College and a single business district.

There are many events that act predominantly as community events, the main ones include:

While Innisfail was always reputed to have a positive sense of community spirit, the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Larry and the unified cleanup effort acted to promote this spirit through shared suffering.[19]


In the past Chinese Australians built the Innisfail Temple/Lit Sing Gung (列聖宮). It was originally a Chinese temple, but nowadays the building is open for rituals of every race and religion. The temple is located at Owen Street.[2] Home to many Italian residents.


Innisfail's town centre is situated at the junction of the North and South Johnstone Rivers, approximately 5 km (3 mi) from the coast.[20] It is located near large tracts of old-growth tropical rainforest surrounded by vast areas of extensive farmlands. Queensland's highest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere; part of Australia's Great Dividing Range, is 15 kilometres (9 mi) to the north.[21]


Innisfail experiences a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af) as it has no month with a mean temperature below 18 °C (64.4 °F) or with less than 60 millimetres (2.4 in) of rainfall.[22] Consistently, humid, very warm to hot weather dominates in Innisfail. In particular Innisfail is reputed as being among the wettest towns in Australia.[23] Babinda, 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Innisfail is generally considered to be the wettest. Unlike most of tropical Australia,[24] the southern winter or “dry” season is not completely dry as moist easterly winds bring frequent showers;[25] rainfall is, however, still far lower than during the southern summer. Monthly totals of over 1,000 mm (39 in) are a routine occurrence in the region between January and April and some months will not experience a day without rain if the monsoon is unusually heavy. The town gets around 71.8 clear days per year.[3]

Climate data for Innisfail (1881-2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 40.1
Average high °C (°F) 30.8
Average low °C (°F) 22.8
Record low °C (°F) 17.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 511.7
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 16.8 17.3 19.8 18.9 17.0 13.2 12.1 10.6 8.9 8.2 10.2 12.4 165.4
Average relative humidity (%) 72 74 73 73 72 70 69 66 65 65 67 69 69
Mean monthly sunshine hours 201.5 155.4 170.5 165.0 142.6 165.0 173.6 198.4 222.0 254.2 240.0 229.4 2,317.6
Source #1: Bureau of Meteorology[3]
Source #2: Sunshine statistics sourced from South Johnstone Exp Station (9.7km away)[26]


Howe St. in East Innisfail is commonly affected by even minor flooding

Innisfail is consistently under threat from tropical cyclones developing in the Coral Sea in and around summer months.[27] Furthermore, high rainfall associated with aforementioned cyclones and monsoons, combined with Innisfail settlement on adjoining rivers causes flooding to be commonplace, occurring to varied degrees of severity annually.[28] Innisfail suffered extensive damage in 2006 due to Cyclone Larry as the site of landfall and received over 100mm of rain in the span of three hours.

Cyclone Larry storm path, the storm eye passed directly over Innisfail
Innisfail Banana crops devastated by Cyclone Larry
Rainforest foliage was stripped by cyclone Larry's force

Tropical Cyclone Larry, an Australian Category 5 cyclone, struck the locality at 7am on 20 March 2006, with the eye of the storm passing over the town.

Severe structural damage occurred over the entirety of the township, the main damage being a portion of houses losing roofs and windows and the cyclone rendered even more homes structurally unsound. Power was effectively eliminated from the town and generators became a luxury in many homes. Clean drinking water was also compromised in many homes leading to health fears. The swift response of the Australian Defence Force was praised by many and the cleanup campaign they orchestrated allowed for total utilities restoration within 3 weeks. Severe damage was done to crops and plantations (mainly bananas) which had a serious economic impact on the region. Only 1 indirect death was record as a result of the cyclone.

Cyclone Larry was a direct and primary cause of the widely reported and dramatic surge in banana prices in Australia. Inflated cost remained until farmers were able to meet demand again in early 2007. In February 2011 Cyclone Yasi hit Innisfail.[29][30][31]

In 2011, in the early morning of 3 February, Cyclone Yasi crossed the far north Queensland coast causing damage to the Innisfail area. Although the damage was not as severe as Cyclone Larry, Cyclone Yasi still had a huge impact on Innisfail bringing strong winds of about 285 kilometres per hour.

Council controversy

The Innisfail Central Business District as it is today

On 8 February 2007 the Johnstone Shire Council was sacked by the Queensland State Government by Queensland's Local Government Minister, Andrew Fraser because of internal conflict, inappropriate behaviour and financial problems, despite an issued show cause presented on 2 August 2006.[32][33]

Among the perceived gross misconduct were the following incidences:

  • The purchase of a $250 000 Steinway Model D Piano with insurance money from Cyclone Larry.[34]
  • Former Deputy Mayor George Pervan was quoted on commercial radio during an interview during the aftermath of Cyclone Larry requesting Southern Queenslanders to:
"Send up a truckload of piss so we can all get fucking drunk" - George Pervan - 2006 [35]

While 2 councillors had attempted to get the Queensland Government to revoke the decision Andrew Fraser has stated that while the action is regrettable it was indeed the correct decision.[36]

Innisfail today

Johnstone River, Innisfail with prawn boats in foreground.

At present Innisfail has largely recovered from the devastation of Cyclone Larry. After the cyclone the township underwent something of an economic boom that stemmed from an influx of tradespeople and business eager to capitalize upon relatively significant insurance payouts. According to reports local trade had increased some 30 - 40% opposed to expected increases of 10%.[37] [38]

The main industries remain predominately banana and sugar cane and have since recovered from the natural disaster. Outlying areas of Innisfail have also resumed manufacture of tea, pawpaws and other exotic fruits.[39]

Innisfail remains a popular destination for backpackers seeking employment in the fruit picking industry. Tourism is of importance to the township and the town consistently seeks to attract visitors passing through on the Bruce Highway.[40]

Notable residents

Father Clancy's funeral procession in Innisfail, 1931
  • Karl Gehringer, former Australian National Team and Commonwealth team Greco-Roman Wrestling 120 kg division 2005-2006 went to school in Innisfail [42]
  • Kieron Moreau, former fashion model of Australian, Egyptian and English pedigree, grew up in Innisfail.
  • Billy Slater, rugby league player for the Melbourne Storm, Queensland, and Australia, grew up in Innisfail.
  • Shannon McCann, Australian 100m Hurdler competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, grew up in Innisfail.
  • Ty Williams, former rugby league player for the North Queensland Cowboys and Queensland grew up in Innisfail. Williams returned to Innisfail to captain/coach the Innisfail Leprechauns in 2014.
  • Ben Dunk,born 1987 Australia T20 and ODI cricket player
  • Norman Stevens, Australian boxer at 1980 Moscow Olympics

In Popular Culture

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b c "Walkabout - Innisfail". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  3. ^ a b c "Innisfail - Australian Bureau of Meteorology statistics". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  4. ^ "Tourism and Regional Information". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  5. ^ "Australian Bureau of Meteorology Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry Report". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  6. ^ "CHANGE OF NAME.".  
  7. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "History of the Innisfail Region". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  9. ^ "Innisfail Cenotaph". Monument Australia. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "Innisfail Court House (entry 601578)".  
  11. ^ "See Poy House (entry 602759)".  
  12. ^ "Canecutters Memorial (entry 602041)".  
  13. ^ "Johnstone Shire Hall (entry 601579)".  
  14. ^ "St Andrew's Presbyterian Memorial Church (entry 602332)".  
  15. ^ "SRA Fact Sheet Innisfail - Australian Government". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  16. ^ "Innisfail Pioneers - Italian History" (PDF). Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  17. ^ "Cultural Diversity in the Johnstone Shire Council". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  18. ^ "About Johnstone Shire Council". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  19. ^ "Community Spirit - Winter 2007". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  20. ^ "Innisfail - Google Maps". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  21. ^ "Mt. Bartle Frere Trail". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  22. ^ Linacre, Edward; Geerts, Bart (1997). Climates and Weather Explained. London: Routledge. p. 379.  
  23. ^ "Tully - Cairns Connect". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  24. ^ Median Rainfall for July
  25. ^ See Mean rainfall May to September for an explanation
  26. ^ "Summary statistics SOUTH JOHNSTONE EXP STN (mean daily sunshine hours)".  
  27. ^ "List of Queensland Cyclones - Windworker Roof Renovations". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  28. ^ "Flood Warning system for the Johnstone River". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  29. ^ "ABC news - Innisfail Devastated". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  30. ^ "Australian Banana Growers Council - Cyclone Larry Report". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  31. ^ "Sydney Morning Herald - Disaster drives big price surge". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 March 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  32. ^ "ABC - Sacking of JSC". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  33. ^ "Queensland Government - Show Cause Issued". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  34. ^ "Innisfail splashes out on $250k piano with insurance money - The Courier Mail". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  35. ^ " - Sacked Council gone bananas". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  36. ^ "'"ABC news story - 'Ineffective Council Sacked. Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  37. ^ "Innisfail Business booming after cyclone - ABC report". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  38. ^ "APIA set up in Innisfail". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  39. ^ "Australian Tropical Fruits". Archived from the original on 4 May 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  40. ^ "Innisfail tourism". Retrieved 2 June 2006. 
  41. ^ "Joseph Costa". Rival Racing. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  42. ^ "Geringer, Karl".  

External links

  • University of Queensland: Queensland Places: Innisfail
  • Innisfail Homepage
  • Detailed History of Innisfail
  • Cassowary Connect Local Events Website for Innisfail
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