Willaura is a rural town in the Western District on the railway line between Ararat and Hamilton. It is about 35 km south-west of Ararat. The countryside is relatively flat with numerous permanent and ephemeral lakes.
When the railway line was opened in 1877 the station at the future site of Willaura was named Wickliffe Road, where the line and the road between Ararat and Wickliffe coincided. A hotel was opened in 1878. In 1900 gold was discovered at Mount William in the south-east Grampians and numerous miners disembarked for there from the Wickliffe Road station. By then there was a school (1885) and part of the Mount William pastoral run was subdivided for share farming, replacing sheep with grain. Farmers and gold seekers stimulated expansion of the village at Wickliffe Road. During 1906-07 closer settlement farms were taken up and the Willaura Farmer newspaper began publication. The change of name from Wickliffe Road to Willaura seems to have happened about then, but the origin of the name is unrecorded.
By 1910 Willaura was an expanding township with a progress association (1906), a public hall (1904), Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches, general stores, a private hospital (1910) and a busy traffic in wheat at the railway siding. There were several sporting clubs, including golf and horse racing. A bush nursing hospital was opened in 1935.
After World War II additional soldier settlement farms were subdivided from four large pastoral properties including Narrapumelap where the homestead was unoccupied and used for temporary housing. (The property is further described under Wickliffe.) Many farms grew wheat and other cereals. Postwar prosperity saw the connection of Grampians water to Willaura in 1949, the building of a war memorial hall (1957) and the opening of a swimming pool (1966). During the 1970s-80s facilities were established for elderly persons.
Willaura maintains a wide range of sports facilities at the recreation reserve, which is next to the bush nursing centre. There are four churches, a hotel, a supermarket, a bakery and several other shops and a primary school which had 34 pupils in 2014.
The railway station and goods shed (1877) are on the Victorian Heritage Register. About 4 km south of Willaura there is the string of ponds called the Cockajemmy Lakes.
The Willaura and District Community Action Plan was produced in 2006-09 with a goal to improve the streetscape and continue to improve the Hospital and Vicarage Swamp Wetlands Track, among other priorities.
Willaura’s census populations have been:
Lorna Banfield and John McKenzie, Shire of Ararat, 1864-1994, Shire of Ararat, 1994
The history of Willaura and district 1835-1985, Book Committee (Willaura), 1985