The shire’s estimated resident population of 21,833 is dispersed across 53,457 km2 resulting in a very low population density of 0.4 persons/sqkm compared with 2.6 persons in Queensland (ABS ERP June 2015). The median age of the shire’s population is 41 years compared to 36 for Queensland and 37 for Australia (ABS 2011 Census). In 2014/2015, there were 9,491 rateable properties (MSC Annual Report 2014/2015).
Mareeba, with a district population of 10,181, is the main commercial and administrative centre and lies 64 km south west of Cairns (ABS 2011 Census, Usual Residents). Most of the shire’s remaining population reside in and around smaller towns and districts including Kuranda, Koah, Speewah, Biboohra, Mt Molloy, Julatten, Mt Carbine, Mutchilba, Dimbulah, Irvinebank, Watsonville, Almaden and Chillagoe.
Of 2,980 km of roads in the shire, Council is responsible for 2,307 km, of which 1,654 km are unsealed (MSC Annual Report 2014/2015). These council and state managed roads connect communities and rural properties within the Shire and beyond to form an extensive passenger and freight road transport network.
The shire’s history and landscape includes a rich and robust Aboriginal heritage with 13.3% of the shire’s population identifying as Indigenous compared with 3.6% in Queensland and 15.8% of residents in the Mareeba township identify as Indigenous (ABS 2011 Census).
Many post World War II migrants from central and southern Europe settled in the Mareeba and Dimbulah district forming the backbone of the former tobacco growing industry.
Demonstrating the shire’s high cultural diversity, 12.2% of the shire’s population compared with 9.8% of Queensland currently speak a language other than English at home, with Italian the most common second language (ABS 2011 Census).