Duaringa, a rural town of 250 people, is on the Capricorn Highway, 90 km south-west of Rockhampton. The origin of the name is obscure, possibly from an Aboriginal expression or based on the name of an early resident, Inga Anderson.
In 1867 an inland railway from Rockhampton to Westwood was opened, and nine years later it was extended to Boollburra, a few kilometres east of the site which from that time was named Duaringa. By 1879 the railway had gone on to Emerald, crossing what became Duaringa Shire.
The presence of the railway was accompanied by an influx of population, and the supervising local authority, the Banana Divisional Board, requested the severance of the Duaringa area. In 1881 the Duaringa Division was proclaimed.
Most of the division's area north of the railway was plains and lowlands with extensive brigalow, a hardy, shrubby acacia. To the south is the Blackdown tableland which merges with the Dawson Range. On the west is the Expedition Range. The main industry was pastoral, but in 1892 local coal deposits were mined about 15 km west of Blackwater. Several other mines around Blackwater were opened by 1905, and around Bluff during 1920-40. In 1949 Duaringa Shire was described in the Australian Blue Book:
In the late 1950s Bowen Basin coal deposits were investigated, and various open cut mines were opened around Blackwater in the next few decades. Most are outside the shire, but Blackwater became their dormitory town. Railway line branches were opened to Cook and South Blackwater mines (1970), Gregory and Oakey Creek mines north of Blackwater (1979) and the Curragh open cut (1983), the last-mentioned being in Duaringa Shire. There was also considerable clearing of brigalow country under a development scheme begun in 1962, particularly north of the Capricorn Highway. The mining and land-clearing activity is reflected in the shire's employment figures: in 2001 mining employed 28% of the total workforce, agriculture 14%, transport and storage 7% and construction 6%. The overall population was youthful, with 28.6% under 15 years old and 3.2% 65 years or more. Comparable percentages for the relevant statistical division were 23.4% and 10.5% respectively (Mount Morgan shire, a former mining area, had 19.4% who were 65 years or more).
The shire's main population centres were along the Capricorn Highway, in particular, Blackwater where the council offices are located. About 50 km south of Duaringa is the Woorabinda Shire, formerly Woorabinda Aboriginal community, established in 1927 when the Taroom settlement was removed from the Dawson River irrigation scheme.
Duaringa Shire's area was 17,752 sq km, and its census populations were:
In 2008 it was amalgamated with Emerald, Bauhania and Peak Down Shires to form Central Highlands Regional Council.
D. Turner, ed, Duaringa Shire, 100 years of local government 1881-1981, Duaringa, Duaringa Shire Council, 1990
J.D. Mullaly, Duaringa Shire handbook, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, 1972
Blackwater, Bluff and Woorabinda entries