About Colac Otway

Welcome to Colac Otway

Aerial view of Colac 2

The Colac Otway Shire is a richly diverse area located two hours west of Melbourne.

Colac Otway is one of the most picturesque municipalities in Victoria, covering a diverse area from volcanic lakes, craters and plains in the north, through the hinterland forests of the Otway Ranges to the Great Ocean Road coastline.

Colac is the key industrial, commercial and service centre for the shire and surrounding region with a population of 12,250 (Colac Region - 2016 Census).

Apollo Bay is the other major centre with a population of 2,001 (Apollo Bay, Marengo, Skenes Creek - 2016 Census) however, visitors to the coastal destination temporarily increase the population to around 20,000 each summer (Barwon Water Urban Water Strategy 2017).



Cow in paddock

Before European arrival in the district, Colac was known as “Kolak” or “Kolakgnat” which means ‘belonging to sand’ to the Gulidjan People of the Eastern Maar Nation.

The Gadubanud people occupied the rainforest, estuaries, grass and wetlands and coastline of the Otways.

Lake Colac, the Volcanic Plains and the Otways provided a rich and diverse food supply, including drinkable water from Lake Colac in the south-east and the Woady Yaloak River to the north.

Pastoralism, cropping, dairying, forestry, railway servicing, and commercial activities have all played their parts in the history and development of the diverse area which is now the Colac Otway Shire.

Colac itself developed as a commercial centre, serving firstly pastoralists, then more diverse agriculturalists.

Dairying became a major industry in the twentieth century and continues to be a major earner for the region.

The timber industry sparked the development of such centres as Forrest and Apollo Bay. In more recent years with changes to the timber industry, these towns have transformed into tourism meccas offering fantastic food, wine, adventure and nature-based experiences.

The Colac Otway Shire was created as a new municipality on September 23, 1994 as part of Local Government amalgamations. The new municipality incorporated the former shires of Otway and Colac, along with the former City of Colac.

The first Colac Otway Shire Council meeting took place on September 28, 1994 and the Council comprised commissioners Hugh Mason, Neil Stewart and Marie Thornton.

The first Council elections took place on March 16, 1996 with Jim Ryan elected as the inaugural Mayor on March 31 of the same year.