Prior to 1821, the Yass District had numerous Aboriginal campsites, which reflect a complex aboriginal history within an area which was, prior to European settlement, known as Ngunnawal Territory. The inhabitants of this territory were known as the Ngunnawal tribe. The strong relationship between local indigenous people and the development of the town is reflected in its name, Yass, which is believed derived from an Aboriginal word "Yhar" meaning running water.
Yass Shire Council was proclaimed on 1 January 1980 following the amalgamation of Goodradigbee Shire Council and the Yass Municipal Council. Yass Shire Council in turn was proclaimed the Yass Valley Council on 11 February 2004, following a further amalgamation of Yass Shire Council and parts of Gunning and Yarrowlumla Shire Councils.
In 1821 Hamilton Hume was the first non-indigenous person to see the Yass Plains. At the time he was struck by the superior quality of agricultural land and spectacular scenery in the area. In 1824 Hamilton Hume and William Hovell returned to the Yass Plains and it was during this time that they made their groundbreaking exploratory expedition from Appin near Sydney, to Port Phillip Bay.
A rough bush track joining Yass and Goulburn was established in the late 1820's partially as a result of Hume and Hovell's early exploration work in the area. Following Hume and Hovell's expedition, other settlers followed bring flocks of sheep, which represented the beginning of the local wool industry in Yass Valley LGA. By 1835 a small village had begun to develop on the south bank of the Yass River in an area known by the local indigenous community as Warrambalulah (beside flowing water).
Yass Valley LGA has since earned a reputation as the "Fine Wool Capital of the World" and the development of Yass Valley LGA stemmed from its strong agricultural base. Hamilton Hume returned to Yass area and purchased "Cooma Cottage" where he lived with his wife until his death in 1873. He made a substantial contribution to the development of Yass Valley LGA and is buried in the Anglican section of the Yass Cemetery. Today, Hume's name is synonymous throughout Australia as one of our country's greatest explorers.
Yass lies on the junction of the Hume and Barton Highways and serves as an important interchange, connecting Sydney, Melbourne and the Australian Capital Territory. The first survey of the town was conducted in 1836 and the township was officially gazetted in 1837.
The Court House and jail were built in 1837/1838 and St Augustine's Catholic church was completed in 1843 and St Clement's Anglican church was completed in 1850. By 1846, Yass had 55 houses and 274 inhabitants, mostly clustered around Dutton and Warrambalulah Streets with a small settlement isolated in North Yass.
During the early 1800's, Yass had established itself as a centre of major significance, providing a rest stop for travellers en route from Sydney to Melbourne and also held a significant reputation as a prime agricultural region. Traffic along the road from Sydney to Melbourne was often held up at the Yass River crossing, known at the time as Walshe's Crossing.
The traffic congestion at the crossing and constant isolation of northern and southern segments of Yass town during floods provided the impetus for the construction of a bridge over the river and in November 1853 the first stone was laid for the "Bow Bridge", which was opened in September 1854 and given the formal name of Hume Bridge.
Yass became a Municipality in 1873 and the railway arrived in 1876. Yass also was one of the three sites considered for the National Capital. Increased traffic flows during the early 20th century took their toll on the Hume Bridge and in the early 1970's it was replaced with the modern bridge which now spans the Yass River.
Yass Valley LGA is well served by rail services to Sydney and Melbourne and an excellent coach service to Canberra. Transborder coaches provide commuter services to and from Canberra as well as special workers and school bus services.
Other major coach companies pick up and set down in Yass daily en route to major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. Yass is also conveniently located for passengers wishing to avail themselves air services as Canberra Airport is only an hour's drive away.
Yass Valley LGA supports an excellent business sector with retailers offering a wide variety of goods whichl provide a boost to the area and assist in keeping Yass the thriving centre it is now.
Yass has a hospital with 18 beds and provides an excellent accident and emergency service. There is also an enviable range of excellent medical centres, dental services and community health centre, as well as aged care facilities which include frail aged and nursing home accommodation. Linton also provides superb retirement village and hostel accommodation.
Yass Valley LGA enjoys excellent education facilities with Yass High and Primary Schools, Berinba Primary School, Yass Public School, Mount Carmel Years K to 10 School, as well as the Andalini special needs school. The Yass TAFE offers a wide range of study courses. Bowning, Binalong and Wee Jasper Villages are also serviced by primary schools with bus services carrying rural students into Yass to attend high schools.
Sport and recreational needs are well covered by an abundance of sporting facilities which cater for the whole spectrum of sports, and include an Olympic size pool complex completed with toddlers pool, an Indoor Stadium, a popular Golf Club, Bowling Club and tennis courts. Walker Park, Victoria and O'Connor Parks provide magnificent playing fields and amenities for Cricket, Touch, Rugby League and Rugby Union Football codes, both senior and juniors, as well as athletics. Squash courts are available for members at the Yass Soldiers' Club.
With its many historic buildings, Yass and its Villages offer numerous attractions for tourists. Since Yass was bypassed in 1994, the main street has received a major facelift. Old buildings have been restored and painted, wrought iron verandahs replaced and the whole street looks entirely different to pre-bypass days. Cooma Cottage, Carey's Caves at Wee Jasper, Burrinjuck Dam and the growing number of cool climate wineries in the district are all popular visitor destinations.
Yass Valley LGA has, over the years, diversified its rural products; many new agricultural industries are emerging including wine, alpaca studs, olives and berries. The close proximity of Canberra to Yass Valley LGA is having a positive impact on the area. Residents are able to drive easily to work in Canberra whilst still enjoying the friendly rural community atmosphere Yass Valley LGA affords. Yass has certainly changed over the past 150 years but many of the wonderful aspects, including strong community spirit and rural atmosphere remain today.
In 2002, changes to the economic base of the LGA present many new opportunities and challenges for Council. These changes will have enormous positive effects on many aspects of our community life and will ensure that Yass Valley LGA continues to grow and maintain its reputation as a vital and vibrant region.
Following proclamation of the new Local Government Boundaries on 11th February 2004, Gundaroo, Sutton Village and Wallaroo Precinct have become part of the new Yass Valley Council area.
Gundaroo area was discovered in 1820 by Throsby Smith and by 1840 the best of the land in the area was occupied.
Gundaroo is a thriving village area with a number of heritage buildings such as the Royal Hotel built in 1865 by William Affleck; the Commercial Hotel established in 1872; Sally Paskins Slab Hut Store was built in 1886.
In 1888 the Gundaroo Literary Institute was built, also by William Affleck. It started life as a rented cottage and in 1897 the land and the cottage were donated to the Gundaroo Mutual Improvement Society to be used as a reading room and library.
The Gundaroo Post Office has been trading for over one hundred years and today incorporates a general store and cafe, a popular meeting place for locals. The Gundaroo Pub Restaurant is a popular destination for locals and tourists.
Sutton Village is situated some 20 kms north-east of Canberra. The region has a long rural history and sheep, cattle and horses were found on most properties. In more recent times, Alpaca and Deer Farms have been established in the area, as well as a number of wineries and olive groves, which illustrate the region's farming diversity.
This progressive community has a store, primary school and sporting facilities including a very active Pony Club, and the local Community Association represents the interests of the local population.
Being situated so close to Canberra makes the area a popular choice for those looking for the more relaxed country lifestyle whilst having a quick and easy access to the work, educational and cultural facilities offered by the City of Canberra.