Cowangie is a rural village on the Ouyen Highway and railway line from Ouyen to Pinnaroo, South Australia, in the Mallee region, north-west Victoria. It is 90 km west of Ouyen, situated in a band of country flanked on the north and south by the Murray-Sunset and Big Desert National Parks.

The district was first known as Kow Plains, ‘kow’ being derived from an Aboriginal word thought to describe white clay or gypsum. (There is a gypsum mine about 30 km north of Cowangie). The Kow Plains pastoral leasehold was first taken up in the late 1850s. The name has also been rendered as Cow Plains, and the homestead and outbuildings (1909) are recorded in the Victorian Heritage Register. The date is disputed in local publications, putting at least part of the buildings’ origins as being around 1867. The name Cowangie is apparently unrelated to Cow Plains, as the word is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word describing fog or mist.

The settlement of Cowangie came about after it was found that the land west of Ouyen appeared to be as good as that which was successfully farmed at Pinnaroo. Test bores confirmed the availability of water, and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission (1905) constructed catchment tanks in 1910-11. The year after, the railway was extended from Ouyen, by when farm selections had been taken up. Wheat growing has been the main industry.

A public hall was built in 1913 and a number of stores opened in the township. The hall was used as a school (1914) until a separate school building was constructed in 1921, as well as for services for several church denominations. A Methodist church was built in 1926, two years after a soldier’s memorial hall replaced the original building. A bush nursing centre functioned from 1916 to 1923, one of the earliest centres in the Mallee, until the Murrayville centre was enlarged.

Several of Cowangie’s buildings have fallen into disuse – bank, butcher and school, which closed in 1952 – although the tennis courts and picnic area have been kept up.

Cowangie’s census populations have been:

census date population
1921 369
1933 309
1961 194

Further Reading

Jocelyn Lindner, Kow Plains and beyond 1849-1988, Cowangie, 1988

Jocelyn Lindner, Kow Plains revisited 1849-2001, Cowangie, 2001