Burketown (population 235) is a town located in north-western Queensland, Australia, on the Burke River. The river and, subsequently, the town that developed along its banks was named in honour of ill-fated explorer Robert O’Hara Burke. Burketown is the administrative centre of the vast Burke Shire Council. The town is roughly 30 km inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The first European settlers arrived in the region not long after Burke and partner William John Wills’ expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. By the mid 1860s, several cattle stations – including Gregory Downs, Floraville, and Donors Hill – had been founded inland from the present site of Burketown. The town of Burketown developed around a site on the Burke River where supplies for these stations landed. At first, hopes the town would develop into a major settlement in north-western Queensland were high. Unfortunately, tropical diseases ravaged the population in 1866 and the town was hit by a damaging tropical cyclone in 1887 resulting in the destruction of 98 percent of Burketown. Burketown’s population peaked at 265 in 1911.
Burketown is characterised by hot, humid and wet summers and warm, dry winters. December is the hottest month, with average maximum temperatures rising to 35.5 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is heaviest during the months of January and February. Flooding, often associated with the passage of a tropical cyclone, often isolates the community for months.