Gunnedah (map) is a town and local government area situated 264 metres above sea level on the Liverpool Plains in the Namoi River valley (population circa 12,287 of which approximately 8,000 live within the town of Gunnedah). The area is very flat; the tallest hills are 400 to 500 metres above sea level. The climate is hot in summer with mild dry winters, although rainstorms in catchment areas occasionally cause flooding of the Namoi River. Major floods cut transport links to the town, briefly isolating it from the outside world.

Gunnedah and surrounding areas were originally inhabited by Aborigines who spoke the Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) language. The area now occupied by the town was settled by Europeans circa 1833. Dorothea Mackellar wrote her famous poem My Country (popularly known as I love a Sunburnt Country) about her family's farm near Gunnedah. This is remembered by the annual Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards for school students held in Gunnedah.

Villages within the shire include Breeza, Carroll, Curlewis, Mullaley and Tambar Springs.

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