Kimba - Culture and History

It is claimed that 'kimba' was a local Aboriginal word for 'bushfire'. Certainly the local council have embraced this meaning and the District Council of Kimba's emblem incorporates a burning bush.

Like so much of the northern Eyre Peninsula, Kimba's development did not really occur until the arrival of the railway line in the early part of this century. The first European into the area was Edward John Eyre who passed near to the current townsite when he crossed from Streaky Bay to the head of Spencer Gulf in late 1839. Eyre's report of the country was less than enthusiastic. 'During the whole of our course', he wrote, 'of 600 miles through, I believe, an hitherto unexplored country, we never crossed a single creek, river, or chain of ponds, nor did we meet with permanent water anywhere, with the exception of three solitary springs on the coast.' It was a harsh, if accurate, assessment. The average annual rainfall in Kimba is only 339mm.

The first settlers into the area were the lease holding pastoralists who moved north up the Eyre Peninsula during the 1870s and 1880s. They attempted to survive by lightly stocking the land and relying on the limited water supplies and intermittent open grass lands.

Overseas demand for wheat in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries added impetus to the development of the area. The large tracts of mallee scrub began to be cleared and access to 'civilisation' occurred with the establishment of regular mail services over the rough bush tracks from the port at Cowell.

The first pioneers to grow wheat in the area were the Haskett family who were growing the crop as early as 1908. The bags of wheat had to be loaded onto bullock drays which carried the produce to Cowell 76 km south.

In 1913 the railway from Port Lincoln was extended into the area and a siding named 'Kimba' was established. Overnight the bullock drays to Cowell disappeared and a number of wheat farmers moved into the area. Two years later the township of Kimba was officially proclaimed and service industries began to move into the district.