Culgoa is a rural village on the Calder Highway where it crosses the Tyrrell Creek, about midway between Wycheproof and Sea Lake, north-west Victoria. It is also on the railway line (1895) which parallels the highway.

Culgoa was previously known as Kaneira (1897) and as Sutherland’s Town. Apparently, a John Sutherland had a hotel and store. The change to Culgoa occurred in 1921 when the railway authority decided to resolve the confusion caused by Kaneira sounding like Kaniva. It is thought that Culgoa is derived from an Aboriginal expression describing a flowing river (Tyrrell Creek).

Just before the extension of the railway through Kaneira in 1895 the infant township had a hotel, a store, a butcher’s shop and a post office. A school was also opened in 1895. Culgoa became wheat growing area, and water supply channels built in 1901-02 helped to provide water for livestock. Within a few years the small township included a mechanics’ institute, a boarding house, two churches, a racing club and cricket and football clubs. Culgoa became a minor district centre in the Mallee wheatlands.

Like the neighbouring areas Culgoa experienced the depressed prices of the 1930s, the postwar improvement in rural commodity prices and the downturn since the 1980s. An informal census in 1987 put Culgoa’s population at 183, including children soon to be born and children at boarding schools. In 1998 the school had one composite class of 21 children. It closed in 2008.

Culgoa has Catholic and Uniting churches, a public hall, a golf course, a recreation reserve, tennis and bowls facilities, a health centre, a general store, a hotel, and a motor garage. In 2003 the general store was purchased by the community and run as a cooperative. Graincorp announced the closure of the Culgoa bulk grain silo in 2003.

In September 2010 and again in January 2011 many parts of regional Victoria experienced widespread severe flooding. In Culgoa, Tyrrell Creek brought record water levels to the town and low lying properties were evacuated. A relief centre was established at the Sea Lake Sports Complex.

Culgoa’s census populations have been:

area census date population
Culgoa 1911 501
  1933 579
  1954 354
  1971 214
  2006 101
Culgoa and environs 2011 339

At the 2011 census livestock and grain farming accounted for 54% of employment.

Further Reading

Jennifer McLennan, Time, tide and the Tyrrell: a history of the Shire of Wycheproof, North Melbourne, 1994

Strong hands, strong hearts, Kaneira-Culgoa 1890-1980, the author/Back to Culgoa Committee, 1980