Goroke, a rural township in the Wimmera region, is about midway between Horsham and the South Australian border. It is 10 km south of the Little Desert. The name is thought to have been derived from an Aboriginal word meaning magpie.

The area was occupied for pastoral runs in the mid-1840s. In 1864 it achieved fame when three children, Isaac, Jane and Frank Duff, were found, having lost their way after being sent to find heath for broom-making. Their father worked on the Springhill station near Goroke, and the story has been told in the Victorian Education Department’s Grade 4 reader. There is a Jane Duff memorial on the Goroke-Horsham Road.

Farm allotments were taken up in the Goroke area in the late 1870s. A school was opened at Gymbowen, 10 km east of Goroke, in 1881, and the Goroke school was opened in 1885. Goroke township was surveyed in 1882. Within a few years the Victorian municipal directory recorded Goroke as having some stores, a flour mill, a hotel and a mechanics’ institute. An agricultural and pastoral society was formed in 1887. The railway line was extended form Natimuk to Goroke in 1894, connecting it to Horsham. In 1903 the Australian handbook described Goroke:

Between 1910 and World War II Goroke maintained a population of about 350-400 people. A bush-nursing centre and a memorial hall were opened. In 1927 the railway line was extended further west to Carpolac. After World War II there was an influx of population as large pastoral holdings were subdivided, some being taken up by soldier settlers. In the early 1950s several small district primary schools were closed and pupils bussed to a consolidated school at Goroke. Education to years 10 and 11 was provided during the 1960s, with an active Young Farmers’ Club attached to the school.

Goroke has a hotel, stores, a public hall, a recreation reserve with tennis and swimming facilities, a showground, bowling and golf clubs, and grain silos. (The railway line closed during the 1980s.) East of the town there are the prep-12 college (95 pupils, 2014) and the community health centre.

Goroke’s census populations have been:

census date population
1891 91
1901 157
1911 398
1933 333
1947 379
1954 559
1961 522
1966 471
1971 362
1981 370
1986 314
1996 268
2006 249
2011 217

In the 2011 census, farming accounted for 48.6% of employment in Goroke and environs.

Further Reading

Centenary of education 1885-1985, Goroke and district, Centenary of Education Book Committee, 1985

Allan Lockwood, 100 years of Goroke shows, Goroke Agricultural and Pastoral Society, 1988