Eacham Shire, an area of 1127 sq km on the Atherton Tableland, and generally 60 km south-west of Cairns, was amalgamated with three other shires in 2008 to form Tablelands Regional Council. It was named after the crater lake of the same name, Eacham being similar in sound to an Aboriginal expression thought to describe the lake.
The Eacham district was at first a rainforest area crossed by a few tracks between Cairns and the Herberton mining district (1880). An unsuccessful village settlement was started at Allumbah Pocket (Yungaburra) in 1886, and significant settlement awaited the next decade. Rainforest clearing – much of it cedar, silver ash and species classified as scrub – was necessary. The cleared land proved to be fertile and good for dairying.
Town settlements followed the extension of the Cairns railway from Tolga, to Yungaburra (1910), Malanda (1910) and Millaa Millaa (1921). So successful was dairying, the Golden Grove dairy factory at Atherton transferred operations to its branch at Malanda in 1924. In 1910 the residents of these places successfully petitioned for the creation of Eacham Shire, to give them local government previously run from distant or under-funded Tinaroo, Johnstone and Cairns Shires. A timber shire office was built in Malanda, lasting until 1928 when it was replaced by a modish concrete masonry structure that was enlarged. The railway facilitated sawmilling of valuable furniture timbers, the marketing of dairy produce and tourist excursions from the coast. The Gillies Highway from Gordonvale (1926) brought more tourists, particularly to Yungaburra and the nearby Lakes Barrine and Eacham, each in a volcanic cone.
During World War II thousands of Allied servicepersonnel on the Atherton Tableland stimulated the demand for fresh milk and locally grown vegetables. The Malanda dairy factory made a permanent changeover to milk production, supplying towns as far afield as Mount Isa after the war. In 1949 Eacham Shire was described in the Australian Blue Book:
Tableland dairying amalgamated, becoming centralised at Malanda when the second remaining factory, Millaa Millaa, merged with it in 1973. The Millaa Millaa township's population declined after the number of local suppliers fell, and Malanda and Yungaburra gained population. Prosperity has generally followed population, the median weekly incomes per person in 2001 being: Millaa Millaa $233; Malanda $269; and Yungaburra $332.
Eacham Shire's main employment sectors in 2001 were agriculture (19.7%), retail and wholesale (15.4%), education (9.5%), manufacturing (8.8%), health and community services (8.3%) and accommodation and hospitality (6.6%).
The shire's census populations were:
Malanda, Millaa Millaa, Tarzali, Wet Tropics and Yungaburra entries