Moree, New South Wales

Coordinates: 29°27′57″S 149°50′02″E / 29.46583°S 149.83389°E / -29.46583; 149.83389
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New South Wales
Main Street, Moree
Moree is located in New South Wales
Coordinates29°27′57″S 149°50′02″E / 29.46583°S 149.83389°E / -29.46583; 149.83389
Population7,070 (2021 census)[1]
Elevation212 m (696 ft)
LGA(s)Moree Plains Shire
State electorate(s)Northern Tablelands
Federal division(s)Parkes
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
26.8 °C
80 °F
12.5 °C
55 °F
583.0 mm
23 in

Moree (/mɔːr/) is a town in Moree Plains Shire in northern New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the banks of the Mehi River, in the centre of the rich black-soil plains. The town is located at the junction of the Newell Highway and Gwydir Highway and can be reached by daily train and air services from Sydney.

The Weraerai and Kamilaroi peoples are the earliest known inhabitants of the area, and the town's name is said to come from an Aboriginal word for "rising sun," "long spring," or "water hole". The town was established by the British in the 1850s, and local Aboriginal residents were placed in missions, later Aboriginal reserves.

The town, and in particular the Moree Baths and Swimming Pool, are known for being visited by the group of activists on the famous 1965 Freedom Ride, an historic trip through northern NSW led by Charles Perkins to bring media attention to discrimination against Indigenous Australians.

Moree is a major agricultural centre, noted for its part in the Australian cotton-growing industry which was established there in the early 1960s. It is situated in the Moree Plains Shire. Moree is home to artesian hot spring baths which are famous for their reputed healing qualities.

At the 2021 census, the town of Moree had a population of 7,070.


Aboriginal people[edit]

The Weraerai and Kamilaroi peoples, whose descendants are still in the town, were the earliest known inhabitants of the area.[2]

British colonisation[edit]

In 1832, Major Thomas Mitchell led a large expedition to the district after an escaped convict by the name of George Clarke told the colonial authorities of the supposed existence of a great river called the "Kindur" that flowed through the region. Clarke had been a bushranger living in a mostly tribal lifestyle with a Kamilaroi clan in the area to the south from 1827 to 1831 and had obtained geographical knowledge important to the colonists. In January 1832, Mitchell crossed what is now known as the Mehi River around ten kilometres east of where the town Moree is now located.[3]

Squatters soon followed in Mitchell's wake, establishing pastoral runs in the vicinity, among which were 'Mungie Bundie' formed by John and Joseph Fleming in 1837, 'Boolooroo' formed by Robert Marshall in 1837, 'Weebollabolla' formed by T.S. Hall in 1838, and 'Mooree' (from a Kamilaroi term believed to mean either "long waterhole", "rising sun", or "long spring") which was formed by James Cox in 1838.[4][5]

Conflict between the colonists and Aboriginal people occurred soon after the arrival of the pastoralists, which resulted in the murder of hundreds of Aboriginal people. Punitive expeditions against the local Kamilaroi were conducted by both squatters and the New South Wales Mounted Police in what was termed at the time "a war of extermination". For example, a large massacre of Aborigines occurred at John Cobb's Gravesend station in 1837, while in 1838 Major James Nunn and his mounted police killed at least forty at Waterloo Creek. Some of the surviving Mehi and Gwydir River Aborigines fled east to avoid the massacres. They were pursued by gangs of colonists, including one led by John Fleming of 'Mungie Bundie' station which in June 1838 perpetrated the Myall Creek massacre. Those Kamilaroi who stayed in the region continued to be killed, including a massacre of nine Aborigines perpetrated by Charles Eyles at Pallamallawa in 1838.[5]

There were also many deaths caused indirectly, through the introduction of new diseases, displacement, and lack of access to life-sustaining resources,as their water holes and hunting grounds were taken over by pastoralists. This led poaching of livestock, and subsequent bouts of retribution from settlers and retaliation by the Aboriginal groups. The impact on the local Aboriginal people continues to the present day.[6]

In 1851 James Brand and Mary Geddes arrived with their Aboriginal servant girl Jane Laney, and built a general store on the banks of the river in 1852. A post office was added the following year. The family sold up and moved to the Hunter Region in 1857 but James died in 1858 leaving Mary with six children so she returned opened another business and in 1861 she opened Moree's first inn.[7][8]

Moree was gazetted as a town in 1862, with land sales proceeding that year.[7]

A court of petty sessions was established in 1863, and there was a severe flood in 1864. The first constable arrived and a police station was set up in 1865. The first church (Wesleyan) was built in 1867 when the town had a population of 43.[7]

As closer settlement proceeded agriculture emerged as a thriving industry on the fertile flood plains. Banking began in 1876 and the first local newspaper was set up in 1881, at which time the population was 295.

The town became a municipality in 1890. During 1894 construction of the heritage listed Federation-style lands office commenced and ended that years with the completion of the ground floor. The second storey was added in 1903. In 1895 the Great Artesian Basin which sits under Moree was tapped and yields over thirteen megalitres of water every day. The bore was sunk to 3,000 ft (910 m) deep in order to provide water for agricultural pursuits but was proved unsuitable for this purpose. The railway line and service from Sydney arrived in 1897.[7]

Wheat cultivation increased after World War II with a flour mill built at Moree in 1951 and the first commercial pecan nut farm was established on the Gwydir Highway east of Moree in 1966. The Trawalla Pecan Nut Farm is the largest pecan nut farm in the southern hemisphere, growing about 75,000 trees. In 1994 the Gwydir Olive Grove Company was established when two Moree families started producing olive oil from olives grown in the area.[9]

Moree was one of the destinations of the famous 1965 Freedom Bus ride, an historic trip through northern NSW led by Charles Perkins to bring media attention to discrimination against Indigenous Australians. It brought racial segregation in rural Australia to the attention of urban Australians, in particular at the Moree Baths and Swimming Pool as well as pubs and theatres, where Aboriginal people were refused entry. At the Moree swimming pool, after a confrontation with the council and pool management, it was agreed that Indigenous children could swim in the pool outside school hours.[10][11][12]

Moree Lands Office, Frome Street

In 1982, after a large racially charged brawl between young white and black men, gangs of white men went around Moree shooting at Aboriginal people. Geoffrey Wilmot, Warren Ledingham, Steven Delamothe and Ian Bowen armed with semi-automatic rifles and shot-guns, wounded several Aboriginal people. One Aboriginal man, nineteen-year-old Ronald McIntosh, was killed. Ledingham and Delamothe were later found guilty of manslaughter.[5]

Aboriginal missions and reserves[edit]

After the establishment of the Aboriginal Protection Board (APB) in 1883, Aboriginal reserves were developed. The Aborigines Protection Act 1909 enabled forced removals children from the reserves, which led to fringe camps around the town.[6]

Moree Mission Aboriginal School existed there around 1933.[13]

Aboriginal people moved from the Terry Hie Hie reserve, south-east of Moree, in the early 1920s to escape the forced removals of Aboriginal and "half-caste" children from their families by the APB. They created an informal settlement at Moree known as Top Camp, which existed until 1967. Steel Bridge Camp and Top Camp were both associated with Terry Hie Hie.[6]

Middle Camp was established on the other sided of town, next to the Mehi River, and Bottom Camp further downstream. This latter camp was enlarged into a station known as Mehi Crescent Reserve or Mehi Mission in 1953.[6]

"Moree Aborigines' Station" was in 1953 described as "a little over two miles west of the town on the left bank of the Mehi". C. F. Boughton, in an article in the North West Champion, describes what the New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Board was doing in its 19 Aboriginal reserves for "the uplift and welfare of the aborigines in this district". The station was then managed by a Mr E. Morgan. There was a school with a headmaster and two assistants. Cookery and sewing were taught to the girls.[14] There were 118 students at the school, and some were brought by bus from nearby camps. The residents had formed a Progressive Association in 1951, and they had a public address system and football club which played in the district competition. The manager's wife ran a girl guides troop and there was a boys' club.[15]

An Aboriginal reserve was declared on 17 July 1970[16] (effective 21 August 1970), and revoked on 20 September 1974.[17] There were also other reserves and places of Aboriginal significance at nearby at Terry Hie Hie, and one called Wirajarai on the Gwydir River.[16]

21st century[edit]

In 2007 the Moree Plains Council announced plans for a $14m upgrade to the hot thermal baths.[9]

Heritage-listed sites[edit]

The Steel Bridge Aboriginal Campsite is a site of moderate to high Aboriginal cultural and social significance, and, 6 km (3.7 mi) outside the town, Gamilaroi Nature Reserve and Terry Hie Hie reserve are also of cultural and historical significance to Aboriginal people.[6]


In the 2021 Australian census, there were 7,070 people registered in the town. Of these, nearly a quarter identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Around 70 per cent of the population were Australian-born.[1]

Tourism and culture[edit]

Moree is home to artesian hot spring baths which are famous for their reputed healing qualities.[7]

BAMM: Bank Art Museum Moree, until 2018 known as Moree Plains Gallery, holds a significant collection of Aboriginal art. It was established and run by Moree Plains Shire Council until 2018, when the Moree Cultural Art Foundation took over management of the gallery.[22] It holds a series of photographs of people from the two Moree missions, called A common place: Portraits of Moree Murries, created in 1990 by Michael Riley, whose mother grew up on one of the missions.[23]


Moree experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with slight semi arid influence. In summer temperatures above 40 °C or 104 °F are common while in winter temperatures below 0 °C or 32 °F are also common. The highest recorded temperature recorded in Moree was 47.3 °C (117.1 °F) on 3 January 2014 and again on 12 February 2017.[24] Typical of humid subtropical climates rainfall is more common in summer than in winter.

Climate data for Moree Aero
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 47.3
Average high °C (°F) 34.3
Average low °C (°F) 20.5
Record low °C (°F) 10.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 79.6
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 7.1 7.1 6.5 4.0 5.2 6.4 6.1 4.7 5.1 7.0 7.6 8.3 75.1
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[25]


20th century[edit]

In January 1910 floods in the Moree district caused numerous washouts of the railway to Moree. An unknown number of livestock were drowned, and at least four people drowned in the Moree area.[26][27]

In January 1946 a flood cut the township in two, and several hundred homes were flooded.[28] The flood waters affected the local power station which caused a blackout. The floods also damaged roads and railway lines in the region.[28] The Gwydir River bridge at Moree was also damaged.[29]

In February 1955 the highest recorded major flood affected Moree, with a record flood peak of 10.85 metres (35.6 ft). Most of the central business district of the town and 800 homes were flooded.[30]

In February 1971 a major flood affected the town, with a flood peak of 10.35 metres (34.0 ft). Four hundred people were evacuated and the township was isolated for two weeks.[30]

In February 1976, another major flood hit Moree, with a flood peak of 10.60 metres (34.8 ft). Nearly three quarters of the buildings in north Moree either had floodwater surrounding them or water in them, which included the central business district.[30]

21st century[edit]

In February 2001, another major flood peak was recorded in Moree. There were a few houses with over floor flooding. Before the flood, nearly 250 millimetres or 10 inches fell at Moree Airport within 48 hours.[31]

In November 2011, major flooding flooded parts of Moree, with a peak of 10.21 metres (33.5 ft). People were urged to evacuate from parts of north Moree and houses were flooded. Nearly 225 millimetres or 9 inches of rain was recorded over 72 hours with 112 millimetres (4.41 in) falling in the final 24 hours of rainfall.[32] Moree and numerous other shires were declared natural disaster zones.[33]

In February 2012, major flooding again occurred in Moree. Peaking just 10 centimetres (3.9 in) above the February 1976 floods at 10.69 metres (35.1 ft), the floods inundated hundreds of houses in and around Moree. the floods were the second highest ever recorded in Moree. Nearly the whole of north Moree had water in the streets with just a few still out. The whole of north Moree was told to evacuate the day before the flood peak including the nearby villages of Yarraman, Gwydirfield, Bendygleet, Pallamallawa and Biniguy.[34][35] Some of the lower parts of south Moree became inundated with flooding. All of north Moree were urged to evacuate as it was expected then to be the worst flooding in 35 years. No fatalities were recorded.[36][37] Nearly 190 millimetres (7.48 in) of rain was recorded at the Moree Meteorological Station in the 72 hours before the flood.[38]

In March 2021, heavy rainfall affected North and East NSW causing major flooding, On 23 March, Moree received 150 mm (5.9 in), which was the second-wettest day on record for any month since February 1888. Flood levels on the Mehi river reached 14.2 metres or 46.6 feet on 25 of March. (0.4m below the 1955 record of 10.85 metres or 35.6 feet)[39] The total rainfall for March 2021 was 263.4 millimetres or 10.37 inches[40] as against an average of 62.8 millimetres or 2.47 inches [41]

In October 2022, Moree experienced major flooding with the Mehi River peaking at 10.50 m (34.4 ft)[42][failed verification] and 4,000 residents were told to evacuate. This was part of an event that has seen major flood levels state wide.[43]


The most popular sport in Moree by a wide margin is rugby league. There are two rugby league teams from the town, the Moree Boars of Group 4, and the famous Aboriginal team the Moree Boomerangs of Group 19. The teams play at Boughton Oval and Burt Jovanovich Oval respectively, often in front of many spectators.

Rugby League Teams in Moree

Other sports teams include the Narrabri Eagles/Moree Suns who play in AFL North West and Moree Weebolla Bulls RUFC.


Moree is served by the Moree Champion newspaper, owned by Rural Press, which is published on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Radio stations 2VM and 98.3 NOW FM also broadcast from Moree. The NOW FM transmitter site is located on Mt Dowe, whilst the 2VM transmitter is located 5 kilometres east of Moree on the Gwydir Highway. Both stations are owned by the Broadcast Operations Group and broadcast weekday breakfast and afternoon programs.

Seven's Tamworth station also had a news bureau in Moree, but it was closed down in 2000 due to budget deficiencies.

The closest television networks shown in Moree are Seven, Nine and WIN Television and they get broadcast from Tamworth.


Moree railway station in April 2018.

Moree Airport is served by regional airline Fly Corporate with regular services to and from Brisbane[44] as well as regular Qantas airline services to Sydney.[45] The now defunct Brindabella Airlines provided a service to and from Brisbane up until 27 January 2012.

Moree railway station is situated on the Mungindi line, 665 kilometres (413 mi) from Sydney.[46] The station opened in 1897 and currently marks the northernmost point of passenger services on the line, a daily NSW TrainLink Xplorer DMU to and from Sydney.[47]

NSW TrainLink operate a coach service from Moree to Grafton.[48] Crisps Coaches operate a coach service from Moree to Warwick with connections to Brisbane and Toowoomba.[49][50]

Notable people[edit]



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  2. ^ a b "Moree". Australian Heritage. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
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  16. ^ a b Thinee, Kristy; Bradford, Tracy; New South Wales. Department of Community Services (September 1998). Connecting kin : guide to records : a guide to help people separated from their families search for their records (PDF). New South Wales Dept. of Community Services. ISBN 0-7310-4262-X.
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Further reading[edit]

  • Milliken, Robert (11 June 2021). "Finding the Moree way". Inside Story. Aboriginal people in the town famously visited by the Freedom Ride are taking an innovative approach to their community's problems.

External links[edit]