Lawloit Shire

Lawloit Shire (1891-1939) in north-western Victoria was proclaimed on 25 May 1891, by severance of the west riding of Lowan shire. Until then Lowan shire extended from Nhill to the South Australian border. The railway line was extended to the border in 1887, and the resulting selection of farmlands led to the population near the border needing their own local government body.

Lawloit was the first evidence of a township in that area, and during 1852-53 the gold-escort route from Mount Alexander to Adelaide had passed through the Lawloit hills. The name possibly arose from the Lawloit Inn, a shanty built for travellers in 1862. It is thought that the proprietor came from Lawloit parish in Ireland. Alternatively, the name may have been derived from an Aboriginal word describing a watering place, the example being Lawloit Lake/swamp.

The town of Lawloit and the population of the Lawloit shire was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:

When the shire was proclaimed in 1891 Lawloit had been overtaken by Kaniva as the district’s main township. The old name was given to the shire and Kaniva was made the shire’s administrative centre. Kaniva was one of several towns along the railway line which passed through a productive stretch of grazing and cereal-growing land known as the Tattyara district. The other towns were Lillimur, Miram and Serviceton.

In common with several shires in north-west Victoria, Lawloit shire lost population during the 1890s, probably because of the federation drought.

A part of Lawloit shire was severed in 1911 for inclusion in Walpeup shire, and Lawloit shire was renamed Kaniva on 23 May 1939. Its census populations were:

census date population
1891 3056
1901 2209
1911 3382
1921 2166
1933 2505

Further Reading

Les Blake, Tattyara: a history of Kaniva district, Shire of Kaniva, 1981

Kaniva shire entry