The British Colony of Queensland was established in 1859.European colonisation of central Queensland was disastrous for the pre-existing Aboriginal population.

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In just one notorious example, after the massacre of 19 European colonists at Cullin-la-Ringo Station (80 kilometres south-west of Emerald) on 17 October 1861, at least 370 Aboriginal people were indiscriminately murdered by such death squads.

The massacre of 19 European colonists was itself a retaliatory response to an earlier shooting of local Gayiri people by Jesse Gregson (manager of nearby Rainsworth Station) with Second Lieutenant Alfred March Patrick and Native Police Troops in his command.

estimates 24,000 Aboriginal men, women and children died at the hands of the Native Police in colonial Queensland between 18 alone.

Emerald was established in 1879 as a base for the Central line from Rockhampton.

The town lies almost 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the coast and approximately 270 kilometres (170 mi) west of the city of Rockhampton on the junction of the Capricorn and Gregory highways.

The Tropic of Capricorn intersects the Gregory Highway just north of Emerald.The area was originally owned by Aboriginal groups (for example, the Gayiri) for tens of thousands of years before European colonisation in the nineteenth century.The first European to explore the area was Ludwig Leichhardt between 18.Major flooding in Emerald occurred a few days after as the Nogoa River broke its banks.The floods resulted in 1,000 houses being affected and more than 2,500 people being evacuated.The 2008 floods did not reach the heights of flooding in previous years.