Although tucked away off the main highway between Brisbane and Toowoomba, Kalbar has become a place many are choosing not to bypass.

Story + Photos Lauren Maher

Walking along the main street of Kalbar, it’s hard to imagine the tough challenges it’s been through. It has weathered a name change and two agricultural downturns, yet the small town in the Fassifern Valley is radiating with recently polished history and a community money can’t buy. 

Kalbar is located in the Scenic Rim in South East Queensland. It’s a growing, cohesive community of just over 1000 people. 

The town wasn’t always known as Kalbar. It was previously Engelsburg – a nod to the German stronghold in the region from the 1860s. “It was nearly like being in Germany,” says retired mixed farmer Wilson Neuendorf, who has lived on his Kalbar farm, five minutes out of town, for his whole 80 years. “A lot of the church services were held in German. They were incredibly tough farmers. They really faced the elements and they succeeded where others didn’t.”

Pushing through his mature cornfields on a bluebird day while nearby mountains stand watch over the paddocks, his passion for the place is contagious. “Why has Kalbar survived? It’s because of a close-knit community, and a community that has looked after and cared for each other.” 

During World War I a decision was made to change the town’s name due to anti-German sentiment. But a piece of grand German heritage was to remain: the Wiss Emporium, built in 1910. “The Wiss Emporium sold just about everything, from tractors to needles. They were incredible,” Wilson says. “Initially, they used to go around with their wagons delivering the items all around the district.” 

The heritage-listed emporium stands strong on the main strip of George Street, although it’s much quieter now.

This story excerpt is from Issue #132

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2020