Biloela, ('Bil-o-ela') a rural town, is 95 km south-west of Gladstone. It is the main town of the Callide Valley agricultural district and the administrative centre of the Banana Shire. The name is believed to have been derived from an Aboriginal word meaning white cockatoo. Biloela was the administrative headquarters of the former Banana Shire.
In 1923 the Queensland Government opened an agricultural demonstration farm near the future town of Biloela as a step towards closer-settlement. Prior to then an area had been used for pastoral purposes, the 'Prairie' pastoral run having been taken up in 1854. There was also considerable prickly pear infestation, some of it classified as dense, along the Callide Creek.
The township was surveyed in 1924 and is characterised by broad streets. Further government assistance came the following year with the opening of a primary school and a railway from Rannes to Biloela and Thangool, but significant settlement awaited eradication of the cactus pest, which was largely complete by 1928. The township's main infrastructure was developed in the 1930s with a school of arts (1930), a hospital (1931), courthouse (1932), Church of England, Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches (1931-41), the commencement of publication of the Central Telegraph in 1932 and the formation of an agricultural and pastoral society in 1933. The research station concentrated on cotton, and the Callide Valley had 40,000 acres planted by 1934, mostly by dry-land farming. A butter factory opened in 1936, a branch of the Port Curtis Co-operative, and continued until 1975. Latterly, the research station has concentrated on seed crops and pig-raising.
Considerable numbers of Greek immigrants settled in Biloela in the 1930s, starting both farming and town businesses. Russian immigrants, often at first employed as cotton pickers, settled in Biloela and Thangool.
By the early postwar years Biloela's population was about 1000 people, making it the largest town in the shire. A district airport was established at the junction of the Dawson and Burnett Highways in 1939, and the Banana Shire's offices were transferred from Wowan to Biloela in 1946.
The Rockhampton regional power supply was connected in 1951, enabling water to be pumped into a reservoir for a reticulated town supply. A meatworks was opened in 1952, ushering in an industrialisation phase with engineering works, bulk fuel depots and local manufacturing. Chain retailers opened up branches, such as Penney's variety store.
In 1971 the Callide (Creek) Dam was completed, providing irrigation water and an assured supply for the Callide power station. Biloela maintained a consistent rate of population growth throughout the closing decades of the twentieth century, its major industries a meatworks and cotton ginnery. The only significant business closure was the Broadway cinema and the drive-in picture theatre. By the 2000s, the Biloela meatworks was ranked the third largest in Queensland.
Biloela has a prominent tourist feature, the Silo, an exhibit recycled from the 1988 Brisbane Expo, forming part of the Primary Industries Museum on the Dawson Highway. The local historical society maintains and occupies the State heritage-listed 'Greycliffe' slab-built homestead, relocated some 37 km in the late 1970s from the pastoral run it once occupied. The civic infrastructure includes the State primary school and a State high school (1963). Catholic (1939) and Lutheran (1978) primary schools, a hospital, a retirement village, a swimming pool (1963), several sports venues including bowls, golf and tennis, a showground, the shire civic centre (1977) and an active eisteddfod society. The old shopping centre in Callide Street expanded during the 1980s, incorporating a Woolworths and a Fossey's drive in centre. One of the town's major sources of employment comes from the Callide Mine situated about 15 km from town. The open-cut style coal mine, which began production in 1944 on the old Callide Station site, supplies the majority of its product to the local power station. The mine is also a large tourist attraction offering regular tours and a variety of vantage points to view the extraction site. Biloela's census populations have been:
A century of local government in the Shire of Banana 1880-1980, Banana Shire Council, 1980
A souvenir of the first 50 years of closer settlement in the Callide Valley, Biloela, Banana Shire Council, 1974
G.R.H. Gill, Banana Shire handbook, Brisbane, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, 1972
Biloela yesterday and today: 50 years down the track, Biloela, Central Telegraph, 1990
Betty Perry, Two valleys - one destiny: a history of Banana, 'shire of opportunity', Biloela, Banana Shire Council, 2005
H.S. Spence, Memories of Biloela district, typescript, 1971